Recent talks I’ve had about insects reminded me of an article in the Star Tribune by Jim Williams.

He wrote about the slow decline of insects, a main food source for birds. He refers to this as the “Windshield Phenomenon.”

According to researchers, the bugs are dwindling, as are some bird species. The decline is slow but constant. Bird decline has been mostly attributed to loss of habitat, but what if it’s actually due to the loss of insects ?

Recent studies in Canada focused on a perceived reduction in tree swallows, which feed exclusively on flying insects. Birds that subsist mostly on grains and fruit are showing no decline.

Data from a study in Puerto Rico were compared with data from 1976. The abundance of insects had fallen by 99%. Scientists attribute the decline in Puerto Rico to an increase in forest temperatures of just under 4 degrees F. over 40 years. Studies in Britain, Germany, Singapore, Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico and Australia also found these same results.

And why does Jim Williams refer to this phenomenon known worldwide as the “Windshield Phenomenon?” On a trip this past August to Grand Marais, he’d driven 500 miles and only had four insect smears on his windshield.

“I couldn’t recall when that last happened,” he said. “The change was insidious.”

Jerry Vitalis is a Chisago County Master Gardener.

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