My parents drove a big Chrysler Cordoba while I was growing up. I remember after road trips gathering around the front of our car with my little sister poking at all the bugs, butterflies, and grasshoppers stuck to the grill of our car. For me, and I’m sure for many kids, bugs are fascinating and the front of our car was a bit of a morbid museum. While my dad scraped off the bugs, I wondered at just how many there must be in the world.
Today something has changed. After long road trips the front of our car is surprisingly clean. It’s been years since I’ve seen a big butterfly wedged into the grill of my car. In fact, more people are wondering, “where have all the bugs gone?”
This general question is called the Windshield Phenomenon. It’s simply wondering why our windshields and grills have less bugs on them than when we were younger. While some, like my mother, would be thrilled with a world devoid of grasshoppers (her arch nemesis), the truth is that bugs matter and a world without bugs is a world nobody would want. Most bugs are vital to our world: pollinating plants, decomposing dead plant matter, and creating life for other creatures.
This spring in Canada a species of bumblebee has just been placed on the “immanent extinction” list, the highest level before full extinction. In just ten years the abundance of the bee fell by 89 percent. As a result of the decline of many bugs, the bird population which often feeds on bugs is also in decline. In the UK, researchers are reporting a 70% decrease in some bird populations, with insectivorous birds in decline by as much at 95%. Overall, depending on location, some parts of Germany are reporting a decline of 76% of their bug biomass in the last several decades, while others report 50% loss.
Healthy neighbourhoods and cities are not sterile and barren of life. In fact, more cities are making the move to welcome bugs. Beekeepers are setting up more hives to help offset the lack of bees, but it is not enough. Community groups and local gardeners are doing creative work to make their neighbourhoods bug friendly. The internet is full of design ideas for ‘pollinator hotels’ which are creative structures that make places for bugs to live and any gardener can set one up, even you.
Chestermere’s Bee City Committee is a growing group in our city committed to helping our natural spaces return to health. This group of volunteers and city staff are working together to create more garden spaces that allow good bugs to thrive. Together we can make Chestermere a place where green things grow and birds sing. We have a chance to make our city thrive, even if we measure success one bug at a time.