Insect Atlas 2020

Facts and figures about friends and foes in farming
For free

+++The Insect Atlas will be deliverable from July 2020+++

Insects are a fundamental part of the basis of life in our world. The extent of insect mortality in Germany, in Europe and worldwide is therefore dramatic.

The Insect Atlas explains why the industrial agricultural industry in particular is threatening the habitats of insects so massively, what ways out are possible, and many other exciting aspects. It provides data and facts about beneficial and harmful insects in agriculture, formulates criticism of the overly hesitant policy and, especially in view of the 15th World Conservation Conference in China and the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union next year, the urgently needed steps to protect insects

Product details
Date of Publication
June 2020
Heinrich-Böll-Foundation, Friends of the Earth Europe
Number of Pages
Language of publication
Table of contents



  • THE BASICS SIX FEET ON THE GROUND They are on the land, in the water and in the air; they eat and are eaten; they pollinate plants, aerate soil and clean up leaves: insects are an integral part of ecosystems.

  • AGRICULTURE BALANCING PRODUCTION AND SUSTAINABILITY Their services in pollination and soil management make insects vital for agriculture. But farming also poses grave threats to them. We need to better maintain and restore biodiversity in farmed landscapes.

  • GLOBAL INSECT DEATHS A CRISIS WITHOUT NUMBERS The decline in both insect populations and in the number of species is well documented, though the evidence is patchy outside Europe and North America. Scientists agree that agriculture has a negative influence. Both the expansion and intensification of farming seem to be to blame.

  • POLLINATOR DECLINE IN EUROPE KILLING FIELDS Europe’s fields and meadows used to be  abuzz with insects, all busily flitting from flower to flower in search of nectar and pollen. With the spread of chemical-intensive farming, the insects are disappearing and the fields are falling silent.

  • INSECT NUMBERS IN GERMANY ON THE WAY DOWN Long-term research, individual studies and the Red Lists all tell the same story: the numbers and diversity of insects are heading downhill. Plugging the gaps in the data will do nothing to change this conclusion.

  • PESTICIDES TO THE LAST BREATH, OR AS A LAST RESORT Agrochemicals are used to control many organisms that might reduce crop yields. They are becoming ever more precise in their workings. Despite this, more and more of them are being applied on the fields.

  • PESTICIDES IN AFRICA BANNED IN EUROPE, COMMON IN KENYA The developed world is waking up to the risks associated with the use of pesticides. The situation is different in the developing world: chemicals that are banned in Europe and North America are still used routinely to control pests. Stricter controls are needed, along with better information for farmers.

  • MEAT FROM FOREST TO PASTURE, FROM PASTURE TO FEEDLOT Worldwide demand for meat sparks a chain reaction of deforestation, monocultures and chemical sprays. Nature is being destroyed fastest in those areas that are especially rich in insects.

  • CLIMATE CHANGE TOO FAST TO KEEP UP A warming planet harms many species of insects. But it is good for a few species, and some of these are making themselves all too visible in the fields. Experts warn that pests will cause greater damage in the future.

  • PESTS AND BENEFICIALS MAINTAINING A BALANCE To limit the damage that insect pests cause to crops, we call on their natural enemies – mostly other insects. Biological pest control is all the more successful if diversity is higher.

  • FERTILIZER COWPATS AND SHEEP DROPPINGS, NOT GRANULATE AND SLURRY The number and types of beetles crawling over the dung of grazing animals, and of flies buzzing around it, indicate how intact or damaged an agricultural system is. Biodiversity often suffers from the application of too much artificial fertilizer and manure slurry.

  • INSECTS AS FOOD SNACKING ON SILKWORMS, LUNCHING ON LOCUSTS Adding insects to our menus could help overcome the world’s food supply problems. But the industrial production of insects is controversial: would it be useful or dangerous?

  • ANIMAL FEED ROOTING FOR GRUBS In economic terms, livestock feed made from insects is still a rarity. If it can be used to fatten chickens and pigs, the market will take off. The environmental sustainability is a different question.

  • BEEKEEPING HONEY FOR HUMANS, POLLEN FOR PLANTS Honeybees produce honey, beeswax and royal jelly, earn money for beekeepers, and pollinate a wide range of crops. But many types of wild bees are endangered – and we know little about many species.

  • BEES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA CLIMBING TREES TO HARVEST GOLD In Europe, we are accustomed to bees that nest in hives, making it easy to harvest the honey. In Southeast Asia, the bee species are different: honey hunters must climb trees to cut down the combs of wild bee species. Even these bees are threatened by modern farming methods.

  • GENDER MICROLIVESTOCK AGAINST POVERTY In poor countries, women can earn extra money by collecting, processing and selling nutritious insects. But harvesting too many can threaten sustainability.

  • POLICY PLENTY OF PROMISES, TOO LITTLE ACTION The dramatic die-off of insects and its possible effects on nature and humanity are scientifically proven. But policymakers are hesitant to respond. They often shy away from picking a fight with the agricultural industry.

  • ECONOMICS INCENTIVES OR BANS, PRICE TAGS OR RULEBOOKS Can the value of nature be expressed in terms of money? That is debatable. Attempts to do so aim to convince governments of the need to take action. They have met with little success.

  • ORGANIC FARMING BUZZING AND CHIRPING VS SPRAYS AND SILENCE Organic farming focuses on maintaining soil fertility and biodiversity. But for an insect-friendly future, the whole farm landscape will have to change.

  • LIVING ALTERNATIVES MAIL-ORDER POLLINATORS As farmers and the agricultural industry search for alternatives to pesticides, the raising of insects for sale is becoming more common – pollinators such as bumblebees, and pest-controllers such as ladybirds. 

  • GENETIC ENGINEERING OUT OF THE LAB AND INTO THE FIELD Resistance results in higher yields. This principle is being used to confer crops with the ability to tolerate herbicides and pests. Now, insects too are coming into the crosshairs of genetic engineering.

  • A WORLD WITHOUT INSECTS TECHNOLOGY WON’T SAVE US If insect diversity were to disappear, a vital part of the system that supports us would be lost. Nature would change, and our diet would have to change with it. Pollinator robots would not be able to compensate for the absence of insects.

  • HISTORY AN ANCIENT COMMUNITY OF FATE The relationship between humans and insects has long been a difficult one. The history of farming is in part the history of pest management. It is only relatively recently that we have come to appreciate the value of insects as pollinators.