Where Have All The Insects Gone?

Everyone Including Birds Depend On Them For Food

Several years ago I was sitting at our hawk migration station talking about the decline in hawks and other avian species with an entomologist who was visiting the site. He said that this decline of bird species is related to the precipitous decline in insect populations. No one fully understands this decline in insects. And he argued that it is to the mountains that we will have to turn for repopulating both birds and insects.

This reminded me that for the past few years we have not had to clean off our windshields of insect deaths. But just as alarming was the fact that butterflies that used to congregate on our dirt road to sup the minerals, etc., no longer appear in large swarms. We used to put up signs along the road to warn motorists to slow down to avoid wiping out groups of butterflies. We have had no call to put up that sign for about ten years now.

Fifty-two years ago when we set up our first household here in Maine after a number of years in Borneo, we had to put cheesecloth on the screens to keep the no-see-ums from taking us apart in our beds. We haven’t had to do that for years.

Monarch Butterfly Decline:

The monarch population has declined 90 percent in the U.S., from 1 billion in 1996 to about 100 million today, according to the federal government.

Threatened Insects from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

Butterflies and Skippers

  • Clayton’s copper (Lycaena dorcas claytoni)
  • Edwards’ hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii)
  • Hessel’s hairstreak (Callophrys hesseli)
  • Juniper hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)
  • Katahdin Arctic (Oenis polixenes katahdin)

Dragonflies and Damselflies

  • Rapids clubtail (Gomphus quadricolor)


  • Flat-headed mayfly (a.k.a., Roaring Brook mayfly; Epeorus frisoni)

Species of Insects of Special Concern from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

A species of special concern is any species of fish or wildlife that does not meet the criteria of an endangered or threatened species but is particularly vulnerable, and could easily become, an endangered, threatened, or extirpated species due to restricted distribution, low or declining numbers, specialized habitat needs or limits, or other factors. Special concern species are established by policy, not by regulation, and are used for planning and informational purposes; they do not have the legal weight of endangered and threatened species. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reviews the list of special concern species at the beginning of each calendar year, and, based on criteria in the Maine Endangered and Threatened Species Listing Handbook (PDF), revises the list as appropriate.


  • A Stonefly (Neoperla mainensis)


  • A Caddisfly (Hydroptila tomah)
  • A Caddisfly (Hydroptila blicklei)
  • A Caddisfly (Hydroptila parachelops)


  • A Mayfly (Baetisca rubescens)
  • A Mayfly (Nixe horrida)
  • A Mayfly (Siphlonurus demaryi)
  • A Mayfly (Siphlonurus securifer)
  • A Mayfly (Ameletus browni)
  • A Mayfly (Baetisca berneri)
  • A Mayfly (Baetisca carolina)
  • A Mayfly (Metretopus borealis)
  • A Mayfly (Siphlonurus barbaroides)
  • A Mayfly (Baetisca lacustris)
  • A Mayfly (Hexagenia rigida)
  • A Mayfly (Rithrogena undulata)
  • A Mayfly (Parameletus midas)

Butterflies and Skippers

  • Cobweb Skipper (Hesperia metea)
  • Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus)
  • Crowberry Blue (Plebejus idas empetri)
  • Early Hairstreak (Erora laeta)
  • Frigga Fritillary (Boloria frigga)
  • Leonard's Skipper (Hesperia leonardus)
  • Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus)
  • Appalachian Brown (Satyrodes appalachia)
  • Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus)
  • Bronze Copper (Lycaena hyllus)
  • Southern Cloudywing (Thorybes bathyllus)
  • Dusted Skipper (Atryonopsis hianna)
  • Northern Blue (Lycaeides idas scudderi)


  • A Moth (Nepytia pellucidaria)
  • A Noctuid Moth (Chaetaglaea cerata)
  • Barrens Itame (Itame sp. 1)
  • Pine Barrens Zale (Zale sp. 1nr. lunifera)
  • Pine Devil (Citheronia sepulcralis)
  • Pine Pinion (Lithophane l. lepida)
  • Pink Sallow (Psectraglaea carnosa)
  • The Buckmoth (Hemileuca m. maia)
  • A Moth (Lepipolys perscripta)
  • Acadian Swordgrass Moth (Xylena thoracica)
  • Barrens Metarranthis Moth (Metarranthis apiciaria)
  • Broad Sallow (Xylotype capax)
  • Huckleberry Sphinx (Paonias astylus)
  • Oblique Zale (Zale obliqua)
  • Red-winged Sallow (Xystopeplus rufago)
  • Similar Underwing (Catocala similis)
  • Southern Pine Sphinx (Lapara coniferarum)
  • Barrens Chaetaglaea (Chaetaglaea tremula)

Dragonflies and Damselflies

  • Spatterdock Darner (Rhionaeschna mutata)
  • Arrow Clubtail (Stylurus spiniceps)
  • Arrowhead Spiketail (Cordulegaster obliqua)
  • Big Bluet (Enallagma durum)
  • Canada Whiteface (Leucorrhinia patricia)
  • Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata)
  • Cobra Clubtail (Gomphus vastus)
  • Dusky Dancer (Argia translata)
  • Pygmy Snaketail (Ophiogomphus howei)
  • Quebec Emerald (Somatochlora brevicincta)
  • Rambur's Forktail (Ischnura ramburii)
  • Scarlet Bluet (Enallagma pictum)
  • Sedge Darner (Aeshna juncea)
  • Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros)
  • Tule Bluet (Enallagma carunculatum)
  • Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)
  • Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)
  • Comet Darner (Anax longipes)
  • Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus)
  • Needhams Skimmer (Libellula needhami)
  • Southern Pygmy Clubtail (Lanthus vernalis)
  • Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea)
  • Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata)
  • Ringed Emerald (Somatochlora albicincta)
  • Lilypad Clubtail (Arigomphus furcifer)

Effects of Decreases of Animal Pollinators on Human Nutrition and Global Health: a Modeling Analysis:

Matthew R Smith, PhD, Gitanjali M Singh, PhD, Prof Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, Dr Samuel S Myers

Published Online: 15 July 2015, THE LANCET


Anthropogenic declines of animal pollinators and the associated effects on human nutrition are of growing concern. We quantified the nutritional and health outcomes associated with decreased intake of pollinator-dependent foods for populations around the world.


Declines in animal pollinators could cause significant global health burdens from both non-communicable diseases and micronutrient deficiencies.

On Biodiversity from E.O. Wilson, 2010:

“So important are insects and other land-dwelling arthropods that if all were to disappear, humanity probably could not last more than a few months. Most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would crash to extinction about the same time. Next would go the bulk of the flowering plants and with them the physical structure of most forests and other terrestrial habitats of the world. The land surface would literally rot. As dead vegetation piled up and dried out, closing the channels of the nutrient cycles, other complex forms of vegetation would die off, and with them all but a few remnants of the land vertebrates.”

— G.N.A., Founder


1) Maine’s Endangered Species, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
2) Maine’s Species of Special Concern, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
3) Effects of Decreases of Animal Pollinators on Human Nutrition and Global Health, The Lancet