You might think it’s impossible that there could be such a thing as an endangered “bug” species, but there really is. Several species, in fact. Here are some examples.
Delhi Sands Flower-loving Fly
Rhaphiomidas terminatus abdominalis is a critically-endangered subspecies of fly found only in the Delhi Dunes of southern California. It suffers in the same way as many other endangered species in being tied to a small, unique habitat. The fly made it onto the Endangered Species List in 1993, but there is continuing pressure from developers to de-list it and allow for construction of various projects. Meanwhile, many other animals and plants unique to that dune system could suffer extinction if the fly loses protection.
American Burying Beetle
Nicrophorus americanus, the American Burying Beetle, once occupied 35 states in the eastern U.S. East of the Appalachians, the species was nearly gone by 1923. Western populations were scarce by 1960. In 1989 the insect was placed on the Endangered Species List. The beetle buries a medium-sized animal carcass as food for its offspring. Habitat fragmentation due to urban sprawl, agriculture, and other human development, has probably led to the beetle’s decline. Increased competition for carrion from scavenging mammals and birds better suited to altered habitat may also play a role. Today, the American Burying Beetle is known only from isolated locations in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Rhode Island. Captive breeding efforts have resulted in some reintroductions to Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Karner Blue Butterfly
One of the higher-profile endangered insects is Lycaeides melissa samuelis, the Karner Blue. Listed in 1992, it represents a subspecies of the Melissa Blue that is endemic (found only) around the Great Lakes and upstate New York. The caterpillar feeds only on wild lupine plants that occur in remnant prairie pockets. The butterfly is being bred successfully in captivity, and wild populations are now being bolstered a bit by reintroduction of those laboratory-reared individuals. The Xerces Blue, Glaucopsyche xerces, actually is extinct, vanishing from the San Francisco Bay area in 1943.
Why Should We Care?
All organisms in a given ecosystem are intertwined in webs of food, energy, and co-dependence. The decline or extinction of one species can cause a domino effect with other species quickly dying off in turn. Insects and other invertebrates are among the most basic foundation blocks in all habitats. We can choose to adapt our lifestyle to fit different conditions. The majority of other animals, and plants, cannot.