Insect offset to help counter insectageddon?

Faced with insectageddon, there is one thing we can be sure of… pesticides kill insects; because that’s what they’re meant to do. Even the makers will admit to that.

What about the implementation of insect offset…? Give a value to the weight of insects a given amount of insecticide will kill (maybe just the collaterals), then you oblige the manufacturer to invest resources into creating the same weight of insects elsewhere.

Complications? Hundreds.
Opportunities for greenwashing? Probably.
Worth debating? I was rather hoping so.


The idea of using the language and strategies of carbon offsetting for conservation is interesting, and I have talked about it with ecologists here in Ontario in relation to insects.

Right now we have one big problem: the insectageddon was only first published in 2017 and we are still trying to figure out exactly what’s causing it. It may well be that habitat loss is much more important than pesticides.

The second problem is that insects are not as easy to count as carbon. When you sell carbon bonds, it’s (fairly) easy to calculate how much carbon whatever activity you are selling will capture. Insects are much more finicky: how exactly are you going to help them out, every habitat will be different, agricultural pests and invasive species will always be a concern, and is the community you are creating similar to the one that used to be there? Or if you are investing in conservation, how do you measure the benefits to insects so you can sell consumer-friendly bonds?

It might be possible, we just need to put more work figuring out broad questions about insect ecology so we can actually use that money effectively.


I would be afraid that it would be used to whitewash bad environmental policies. Just like foresters cut down old growth forests containing dozens of interconnected species of trees and countless other dependent organisms and then “offset” that by planting the equivalent number of acres of “forest” which is usually a commercial monoculture.
Killing off thousands of species of insects and then throwing a few dollars at monarch conservation would be a rather poor offset.


yeah, similar things often crop up with people wanting to bulldoze a wetland or other ecosystem and then pay to restore/create one somewhere else. There are lots of problems, restoration is slow, often doesn’t work, often isn’t the same sort of wetland as what was lost, etc etc etc. I think it has a time and place but not so much to make up for removing wetlands, we should be conserving our wetlands AND restoring impacted ones. Same with insects. Habitat loss has been so extensive and usually unnecessary or detrimental in terms of human health and welfare, etc.

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It’s hard to convince Plant TREES (= carbon capture and automagic rain!) that a pine plantation isn’t a forest, that trees are not ‘better’ than mediterranean shrubs, or grassland.

You might be able to sell the idea of (honey) bees or Monarch butterflies - but the ‘worms’ and beetles and bugs that eat garden plants - no thank you. That will be a hard sell outside iNat.

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Thanks for your replies.

Should that pesticides are not the main problem be an obstruction? Maybe. It might send the wrong message and incorrectly reprioritize efforts.

Calculations are always going to be a bit fictional, so I see it as a question of giving a some sort of value, however approximate.

The danger of legitimizing pesticide use would be a big problem.

Maybe a better idea would be a dedicated ecological tax on pesticide use, being used in attempted insect recuperation. Maybe that would be easier to get popular support and less of a greenwash opportunity. It would also make pesticides less attractive economically. (Do such taxes already exist?)

Agribusiness wouldn’t have much of a lobby to oppose that would they?

I go out for a walk around agricultural land every day for about an hour here in Andalusia. I can go for days without seeing one single crawling insect (other than an ant). It is very sad.

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Seeing NO insects is frightening (and then all the pesticide residues among the dead insects on the harvested crops) Grim!