How Can I Help Insects?
Introduce foraging and nesting resources in your community.
Habitat loss is one of the largest drivers of insect declines worldwide. Creating a diverse landscape that includes open meadows, shrubby areas, and forestland can encourage a diverse insect community as these different areas provide a variety of native foraging and nesting resources. Many strategies are already developed for supporting pollinator communities and these steps can also benefit non-pollinating insects by creating optimal habitat. Some things you can do for pollinators include planting a pollinator garden, maintaining a sandy/open area in your garden for ground-nesting bees, having a bee hotel for wood nesting bees, and planting butterfly larval host plants like milkweed. If you don’t have a yard, add some potted flowering plants to your balcony, or at your front door. Take an active role in a local community garden or volunteer with a local habitat restoration group. This can not only provide habitat for local insect residents, but also stopover habitat for migratory ones. You can get your garden certified through the Penn State Master Gardener Certification Program! Explore the predicted resources and risks (from pesticides) in your area by using the Beescape decision support tool.
Reduce light pollution.
Light pollution has been shown to interrupt insect courtship, foraging, and navigation. Turn your outside lights off at night and suggest to your local community leaders that road lighting be dimmed when road use is low (11pm-5am). Use LED lighting.
Reduce water pollution.
Materials like insecticides and microplastics in our waterways can have lethal and sublethal effects on aquatic invertebrate communities. Do not dispose of household chemicals or cleaning agents down your drains. Reduce water use as much as possible. Additionally, supporting areas in your community that can serve as natural water treatment facilities, like wetlands, can improve water quality for local insect populations.
Reduce pesticide use.
The overuse of insecticides and herbicides to treat for insect pests and weeds has the potential to harm non-target and beneficial taxa like pollinators. To manage pests while reducing effects on the broader insect community, use an Integrated Pest Management approach (IPM) or Integrated Vegetation Management approach. IPM/IVM can be used in any system, including homes and gardens, urban areas, and agricultural pests. The principles of IPM include:
- Monitoring populations of pest species and use control measures when needed to limit economic damage.
- Using multiple non-chemical methods, such as crop rotation, trap cropping, or the use of biological control agents, to limit pest populations without using chemicals.
- If you do need to use chemicals, know the safe application methods that are approved in your area, and choose chemicals that have reduced effects on non-target species.
Also, purchase goods that are sourced sustainably: learn about where your food products come from and try and buy local, organic foods and fibers whenever you can.
For more information on IPM practices for urban, suburban, roadsides and rights-of-way, agricultural areas, and natural areas, check out the third chapter of the Pennsylvania Pollinator Protection Plan (P4).
Recycling can keep synthetic plastics and other harmful materials out of waterways and landfills, protecting aquatic invertebrates. If you do not have a curbside recycling service, find a local recycling facility within your community. Frequently recycled materials include cans, glass, plastic bottles, miscellaneous plastics, cardboards, and papers. Some communities even have organics recycling.
Start composting at home.
Alternatively, composting is another great way to recycle organic materials and can be paired with personal or community gardens to benefit insects, without relying on store-bought soil enriched with synthetic fertilizers. Vermiculture is another great option for making compost from household kitchen and paper scraps. Buy local mulch, compost, and manure if possible. Pests have been known to travel in commercial compost/potting mix bags and is sometimes chemically contaminated.
Reduce carbon emissions.
Combating climate change by reducing emissions will help to stabilize local ecosystems and maintain balance in insect communities. Bike, reduce household energy use, change your electric energy source to a sustainable one either through your electric company directly or by investing in solar panels.
Support local, regional, and national policies that improve habitat for insects.
From national programs like the Farm Bill to local programs like the Lawns to Legumes project in Minnesota, it is clear that our communities are taking insect conservation more seriously. These measures are imperative to initiate a national dialogue about what we can do to conserve insect biodiversity! Encourage your local, state, and federal government to restore parks, natural areas, transportation rights-of-way, and local waterbodies. Know what you can do for your land through programs and grants that help you manage your land for insects. Support non-profit organizations and educational institutions that research insects such as the Xerces Society, Clearwater Conservancy, and Penn State!
 Owens, A. C. S., Cochard, P., Durrant, J., Farnworth, B., Perkin, E. K., & Seymoure, B. (2020). Light pollution is a driver of insect declines. Biological Conservation 241, e108259.
 Lopez-Rojo, N., Perez, J., Alonso, A., Correa-Araneda, F., & Boyero, L. (2020). Microplastics have lethal and sublethal effects on stream invertebrates and affect stream ecosystem functioning. Environmental Pollution 259, e113898.
 Sanchez-Bayo, F., and Wyckhuys K.A.G. (2019). Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation 232: 8-27.
 Baldock, K. C., Goddard, M. A., Hicks, D. M., Kunin, W. E., Mitschunas, N., Morse, H., ... & Staniczenko, P. P. (2019). A systems approach reveals urban pollinator hotspots and conservation opportunities. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3(3), 363.