Germany to Revitalize its Insect Population by Dimming its Night Sky

The country plans to take a wide-range of measures to help its insect population.

Sep 25, 2020

(tomertu / Shutterstock.com)

While we often think of critters like mosquitos as an annoyance to our outdoor adventures, the worldwide insect population is in fact, an indispensable part of a healthy planet. That’s why Germany’s environmental ministry (AFP) has proposed a package of solutions to rehabilitate the country’s insect species. 

The proposal and the wider conservation initiative called the Insect Protection Action Plan comes as a response to pressure from environmental activists. Awareness has been growing around this issue after a 2017 study found that the flying insect population declined by 75 percent over 27 years in conserved areas.  

Some of the measures taken will include conventional methods, such as building insect habitats and minimizing insecticides according to MSN News; however the government also plans to restore the insect population by minimizing light pollution, which refers to the abundant use of artificial lights.

The new law, therefore, proposes dimming public street lamps, partially banning floodlights and sky spotlights, and outlawing outdoor light traps. According to Geography Realm, the proposal also requires that any new public lamps must follow light pollution guidelines, that help to minimize negative impacts on plants, animals, and insects. The ministry hopes to gain cabinet approval in the fall of 2020. 

While dimming lights doesn’t necessarily feel like such a critical step, light pollution does, in fact, play a substantial role in insect decline, according to Geography Realm. Since over half of all insect species are nocturnal, artificial lighting is problematic for these species because it hinders their ability to use natural light sources (such as the moon) to attract a mate or for orientation during migrations.  Lighting can also kill insects, such as moths, fireflies, and dung beetles, who get caught in their “orbit” overnight.

Some of the other causes of this decline include pesticide use, climate change, and habitat loss. Activists in Germany are hoping that the government’s regulation will take the necessary steps to tackle this issue holistically. 

Rolf Sommer, a director at the German chapter of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) told MSN News, “We will not stop insect decline with tinkering alone.”  He said that the environment ministry's proposals were just a starting block for more insect protection.

Sommer hopes that the agriculture ministry will take more stringent steps to phase out glyphosate, a problematic weed killer that was originally supposed to be banned as part of the government’s initiative. 

Recently, a number of European countries have begun reducing or banning glyphosate. Luxembourg is the first country in the EU to officially ban all products containing glyphosate, while a handful of other countries and cities are making large efforts to minimize its use, reports DW. For example, as part of a city-wide ban on pesticides, Brussels has outlawed use of glyphosate and other chemicals typically used in gardening and agriculture.

Wide scale measures to minimize agrochemicals and light pollution are just two of the many ways that countries are restoring the critical insect population. Large conservation areas and the mitigation of climate change are other ways that countries are getting involved to restore habitats and help these tiny crawling friends.

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HILLA BENZAKEN, CONTRIBUTOR
Hilla Benzaken is a dedicated optimist. Her happy place involves cooking, acting, gardening, and fighting for social justice. She writes about all things sustainability, innovation, and DIY.