New ESA Position Statement: Protecting Endangered Insects Protects Our Country

Insects play crucial role in sustaining healthy ecosystems

Annapolis, MD; June 29, 2017—Even though insects outnumber vertebrate species by more than 20:1 on planet Earth, more than five times as many vertebrates are listed as endangered or threatened in the United States. Insects are greatly under-represented on the U.S. endangered list.

And yet insects are essential components of the biological diversity that sustains healthy ecosystems. The Entomological Society of America urges the American public and policymakers to protect these crucial indicators of environmental health in its new position statement on endangered insect species.

Examples of economically important but endangered insects include:

  • The rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), once common across the Midwest and eastern U.S. and Canada, now inhabits just 0.1 percent of its historic range. Losing the bee to extinction would mean losing its role in pollination of cranberries, plums, apples, and several dozen species of native wildflowers.
  • The American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus), which once lived in 35 states across the country, now remains in just six states. It buries dead animals to feed its young, thereby removing breeding habitat for flies that transmit disease to people, pets, and livestock.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of America’s key conservation laws, designed to protect species and the ecosystems that sustain them and widely recognized as a worthwhile economic investment. Federal and state agencies spend approximately $1.5 billion per year to implement the Endangered Species Act, but the economic return on protecting the biodiversity of insects alone is far greater. For example, native insects such as the rusty patched bumble bee contribute to more than $3 billion in pollination services to U.S. crops while providing food for wildlife, reducing costs of pest control, and improving ecosystem health by recycling nutrients—services that total more than $57 billion.

The Entomological Society of America advocates the following positions regarding the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973:

  • The decision to protect a species should be made by scientists on the basis of scientific evidence.
  • Insect conservation is important. However, a clear bias towards plants and vertebrates exists in the listing process. The population dynamics and speciation processes of insects differ and should be accounted for when assessing their status. This is an area where the Endangered Species Act needs improvement.
  • Recovery plans must continue to take into account multiple stakeholders, including landowners, developers, the agriculture community, and the general public, with sound science as an integral part of the process.
  • The Endangered Species Act should not be repealed. The Act works. It has repeatedly been demonstrated that species with adequately funded recovery plans can recover. Federal protection and funding is crucial as endangered species often cross state lines.

CONTACT: Joe Rominiecki, jrominiecki@entsoc.org, 301-731-4535 x3009

ABOUT: ESA is the largest organization in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has over 6,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Headquartered in Annapolis, Maryland, the Society stands ready as a non-partisan scientific and educational resource for all insect-related topics. For more information, visit http://www.entsoc.org.