FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2015, file photo, Tom Merriman stands behind a monarch in his butterfly atrium at his nursery in Vista, Calif. Milkweed has long been considered a nuisance on North American farmlands but now, more than 100 farmers in Quebec and Vermont are planting it in their fields to help restore the declining population of monarchs, which use that plant exclusively for their eggs and to feed the caterpillars. The farmers are also tapping a new market for the milkweed fibers. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File) A monarch butterfly alights on milkweed flowers at Tom Merriman's nursery in Vista, California, Aug. 19, 2015. Milkweed has long been considered a nuisance on North American farmlands but now, more than 100 farmers in Quebec and Vermont are planting it in their fields to help restore the declining population of monarchs, which use that plant exclusively for their eggs and to feed the caterpillars. The farmers are also tapping a new market for the milkweed fibers. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
In the UK, people are being asked to count butterflies. Gregory Bull / AP

Insect Armageddon: how modern life is killing man’s essential friend

Here is this year’s most unpopular cause: insects. I suspect, if you think of insects at all, you will be absolutely sure you have enough of them in your life. What is there to like about those six-legged little beasts, which can bite at one end, sting at the other and are generally regarded as pests? None of us want them near our bodies, in our homes, cars, or (worst of all) anywhere near our food.

But something a friend said to me this summer made me think again about insects. Did I remember, he said, my parents driving their car and complaining about the number of bugs squished on the windscreen or the front of the bonnet?

Of course I did. I also remember helping my father clean off the mess.

Well, said my friend, where have all the bugs gone?

And he was right. Over the past few years when driving on the roads of Europe, I occasionally do hit a few flies and moths but it’s nothing compared to the carnage on the windscreens of my childhood.

This month in Britain we are being encouraged to take part in an insect survey called the Big Butterfly Count – butterflies being the most beautiful of our flying insects.

They appear to be in significant decline. The British naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham commented on the absence of insects in the trees of the New Forest where he lives.

He said he had not seen a single butterfly in his garden and the bugs that, on summer evenings, used to come into his bedroom – moths and craneflies – were also scarcer than ever before.

“Our generation is presiding over an ecological apocalypse and we’ve somehow or other normalised it,” he said.

Bug statistics are tricky because humans have a great aptitude for counting things we think are important and not bothering to count stuff we do not care about.

For most of us, insects have tended to fall into the latter category.

But in the case of butterflies, scientists speak of numbers more of less having halved among Britain’s most common species over the past 40 years.

Intense periods of drought, such as in 1976 or 1995, have made matters worse.

And this year Europe is experiencing some of the hottest and driest weather for years. Other studies suggest European butterfly populations are in what some scientists call a “horrific decline” and others portray as “insect Armageddon”.

Pollution and a loss of habitat are being blamed but a more important factor – at least, according to scientific researchers – is intensive farming methods and pesticide use. Insects are considered pests. Powerful pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, are for some the prime suspect.

Neonics are effective killers but they do not discriminate between insects we do not want near our crops and those without whom we would not have any crops at all.

Bees, for example, and other vital pollinators appear to be badly affected by exposure to neonics.


Read more from Gavin Esler:


The European Union restricted the use of these pesticides a few years ago, despite protests from the farming lobby.

But in the US, the Trump administration has overturned the ban in national wildlife refuges.

A spokesman for the US Fish and Wildlife Service said this was necessary to “fulfil needed farming practices”, a bizarre contradiction to the very idea of “wildlife refuges”.

The environmental movement worldwide has been inspired by many campaigners but perhaps the most notable was the American writer Rachel Carson.

In 1962, she published an extraordinary book entitled Silent Spring, which outlined the damaging effects of pesticides on other animals, including birds.

The idea of no birdsong is horrific to most people. The idea of no insects is not as immediately alarming but after a few seconds' thought, it is obvious that whatever their role as our least favourite species, in a world without insects, humanity is doomed.

A third of the world’s crops, including most fruits, rely on insect pollination.

Insects also play a key role in digesting dead and decaying animal and plant material, as well providing food for birds and other species.

It is debatable whether insects will ever feature on any list of favourite creatures but they are indispensable neighbours. Literally indispensable.

If every last bug were to be killed off, it is difficult to see how humans could long outlast them.

The European Union is considering a total ban on neonics by the end of this year.

In some countries and even in some gardens, more and more land is being set aside for unkempt weed-filled areas to thrive without human cultivation in the hope that our friendly enemies, the bugs, might return.

Animal life is wonderfully resilient and anything is possible, especially with scientists sounding the alarm.

Profits and good harvests for farmers are most certainly important to all of us. But short-term quick cash is worthless in a degraded planet with few pollinators and nothing to harvest.

Even bugs have their place, even if it is not buzzing around our bedrooms late at night.

Gavin Esler is a journalist, author and television presenter


Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

The years Ramadan fell in May






First Test: New Zealand 30 British & Irish Lions 15

Second Test: New Zealand 21 British & Irish Lions 24

Third Test: New Zealand 15 British & Irish Lions 15

Rafael Nadal's record at the MWTC

2009 Finalist

2010 Champion

Jan 2011 Champion

Dec 2011 Semi-finalist

Dec 2012 Did not play

Dec 2013 Semi-finalist

2015 Semi-finalist

Jan 2016 Champion

Dec 2016 Champion

2017 Did not play



World Cup qualifier

Thailand 2 (Dangda 26', Panya 51')

UAE 1 (Mabkhout 45+2')

Wednesday's results

Finland 3-0 Armenia
Faroes Islands 1-0 Malta
Sweden 1-1 Spain
Gibraltar 2-3 Georgia
Romania 1-1 Norway
Greece 2-1 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Liechtenstein 0-5 Italy
Switzerland 2-0 Rep of Ireland
Israel 3-1 Latvia


Display: 10.9" Liquid Retina IPS, 2360 x 1640, 264ppi, wide colour, True Tone, Apple Pencil support

Chip: Apple M1, 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine

Memory: 64/256GB storage; 8GB RAM

Main camera: 12MP wide, f/1.8, Smart HDR

Video: 4K @ 25/25/30/60fps, full HD @ 25/30/60fps, slo-mo @ 120/240fps

Front camera: 12MP ultra-wide, f/2.4, Smart HDR, Centre Stage; full HD @ 25/30/60fps

Audio: Stereo speakers

Biometrics: Touch ID

I/O: USB-C, smart connector (for folio/keyboard)

Battery: Up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours on cellular

Finish: Space grey, starlight, pink, purple, blue

Price: Wi-Fi – Dh2,499 (64GB) / Dh3,099 (256GB); cellular – Dh3,099 (64GB) / Dh3,699 (256GB)


Uefa Champions League last 16, second leg
Liverpool (0) v Atletico Madrid (1)
Venue: Anfield
Kick-off: Thursday, March 12, midnight
Live: On beIN Sports HD


Company name: Blah

Started: 2018

Founder: Aliyah Al Abbar and Hend Al Marri

Based: Dubai

Industry: Technology and talent management

Initial investment: Dh20,000

Investors: Self-funded

Total customers: 40

Heavily-sugared soft drinks slip through the tax net

Some popular drinks with high levels of sugar and caffeine have slipped through the fizz drink tax loophole, as they are not carbonated or classed as an energy drink.

Arizona Iced Tea with lemon is one of those beverages, with one 240 millilitre serving offering up 23 grams of sugar - about six teaspoons.

A 680ml can of Arizona Iced Tea costs just Dh6.

Most sports drinks sold in supermarkets were found to contain, on average, five teaspoons of sugar in a 500ml bottle.

Abu Dhabi GP Saturday schedule

12.30pm GP3 race (18 laps)

2pm Formula One final practice 

5pm Formula One qualifying

6.40pm Formula 2 race (31 laps)

The bio

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Favourite car: Lamborghini

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Favourite quote: If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough

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