International conservation groups spend fortunes counting and protecting endangered elephants. Armies of bird-lovers enter sightings of their feathered friends into global databases. But who is looking out for insects? And if one does catch your eye, how do you figure out what kind it is?
The question matters because of the vital roles bugs play in the natural systems that keep humans healthy. For example, insects keep soils healthy, control crop pests and pollinate trees. A whole host of birds and animals rely on them as food.
There is anecdotal evidence of falling insect numbers – in some countries, people say the number of bugs they clean from their car windshields has dropped sharply. Isolated scientific studies backs that up. But there is not enough data for scientists to determine what is really going on, never mind what to do about it.
That is where you come in!
Together with iNaturalist, we are inviting everyone to take part in a 1-12 June BioBlitz to map the insects and other species around you and provide the data needed for experts to work out how to conserve biodiversity, from the local level to the global.
The iNaturalist app allows you to upload photos of the plants and animals that you discover along with their location. If you are not able to identify the species yourself, the iNaturalist community will soon help you out – even with the weirdest-looking critter you can find.
The World Environment Day website contains a host of information about citizen science in general and iNaturalist in particular. For instructions on how to download the iNaturalist app and submit your sightings, click here. To focus specifically on bugs, this link will take you to a step-by-step guide to organizing a Bug BioBlitz.
World Environment Day is over, but the BioBlitz continues until 12 June, so there is still time to connect with nature and help protect the bugs that enliven our world as well as keeping it healthy.