Alonzo Weston

I read the other day about a study that indicated climate change could threaten hundreds of insect species in Missouri. The belief being that these species may not recover after they die from the extreme weather conditions.

A 2018 University of Missouri at St. Louis study examined 250 insect species whose populations dropped after mid-spring frosts and summer droughts. It was a decrease of 95 percent for some species.

For some reason this piece of information took me back to summers of my youth, when killing insects was a must.

On hot summer nights in St. Joseph and many other small cities and towns around here, city trucks rode through neighborhoods spraying a kerosene mist in efforts to kill mosquitoes. I don’t know how many mosquitoes it killed or how many other insects, for that matter.

No one thought about how dangerous that action was either. Kids were allowed to run through the killing mist for fun when the trucks drove by. Parents just sat on the porch watching their kid play in the mist as if watching them play a friendly game of Indian ball.

By today’s standards many would think parents didn’t care for their kids by allowing them to do things like that or ride in the back of pickups or swim in lakes and ponds.

I’m sure running through a kerosene fog wasn’t healthy, but we were allowed to be kids and not grow up fearing death in every adventure. Many of us still romanticize those times. We just know better today about some things.

I bemoan the extinction of many plants, animals and, yes, even some insects. The common wisdom is that some insects like flies and roaches will outlive humans.

That belief brings to mind an Emily Dickinson poem titled “I Heard a Fly Buzz — When I Died.”

Here it is in part: “I heard a fly buzz when I died, the stillness in the room was like the stillness in the air between the heaves of storm.”

I don’t know if it was Dickinson’s intent, but the poem says to me that insects will still be alive when I die. That’s even with their lifespans being shorter and people trying to kill them.

We may not want insects invading our picnics or other outdoor activities, but the fact is that we need some insects like bees for us to remain alive as a species. Bees pollinate the plants that grow and produce food for us, such as rice, wheat, corn, fruits, nuts, coffee, chocolate and other vegetables.

It’s been estimated however, that 80 percent of pollination is done by only 2 percent of bee species. Without bees, a lot will be lost.

As we approach winter, many insects will die from the cold weather. But it’s a seasonal occurrence. Once warmer weather returns, so will our pesky mosquitoes, flies and other annoying insect friends. If climate changes takes them away, I sure won’t mind.

What I will mind most is losing the wonderment my grandson Jace has with bugs. Like most 6-year-olds, he explores the outdoor world through bugs, frogs, toads and other creatures.

It’s the same fascination I had at that same age with creepy crawlies. I enjoyed catching ants and putting them in a huge jar wrapped with black paper and then removing the paper after a month and seeing the intricate tunnels they dug. I even enjoyed catching ants, crickets and other small insects and putting them in spider webs to see the spider skillfully wrap them up in silk for a later meal. I loved catching fireflies on a hot summer evening and listening to the cicadas and crickets serenade the nightfall. I still find that evening concert as satisfying as I do the fireflies lighting up my yard. A day without butterflies would be less of a beautiful day, as well.

I would not miss mosquitoes, roaches, flies and other pests, but when they go I can expect to lose the insects I enjoy. So I’ll suffer the pests as long as I can have butterflies, bees and ants.

Alonzo Weston can be reached


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