Silent Summer: sooner than we think?

One of my Facebook friends, who lives in Western Washington, posted about the annual mating flight of the subterranean termites. The post was on August 24. The first thing that came to my mind – and the comment I made – was that this was about 5–6 days earlier than I remembered. When I lived in the same area at the end of the 90s, they were consistently on September 1. It was as if they had the date written on their calendar. My friend commented back, “yeah, they are fewer in number every year, and more erratic in their timing.”

Last week, at the monthly potluck of my vegetarian group, the guest speaker asked us to recall that twenty years ago, going for a drive in the summer would result in insect splatters on your windshield, but not anymore. Once she mentioned it, yes, I had noticed that.

Most people don’t really notice insects, except for the ones that they actively dislike. Now, the readers of this forum are likely to be exceptions to that general situation. But the termite business and the bug-free windshield business have me feeling kinda discombobulated now. Silent Spring had a chapter called “And No Birds Sang.” Now I’m imagining a Silent Summer, “And No Insects Stridulated.” Not a peep from crickets or grasshoppers; no pulsating of cicadas through the dog-days; and at night, the trees do not resound with katydids.

I wonder how many people would notice, or feel that something was wrong if they noticed?


I’m not that old and I remember how easy it was to find insects, amphibians, and others every summer. Since getting into inaturalist I’ve returned to some of my old haunts and found them almost devoid of life compared to what used to be there. I used to be able to find a frog in every marsh and a salamander or interesting native invert under every rock


I’ve always loved the E.O. Wilson quote referring to invertebrates as “the little things that run the world.”

This is sadly true. But if we can get people excited about insects, they can be an excellent gateway to conservation efforts as a whole. Insects are one of the first groups to react to conservation efforts, even when done on relatively small scales. Choosing to garden with native plants and limiting the use of pesticides creates a noticeable difference in the biodiversity that can be found in your yard. This observable and relatively fast reward for your effort can give people hope that they personally can have an impact.


The insect population in Vermont seemed to be lower this year, though it rebounded some after the floods for whatever reason. Of course, the mosquito and tick populations are healthy, but fireflies, bees, etc seemed less this summer :(


Not in my garden! Maybe living out west is different with hundreds of thousands of acres of public land to explore and emphasis on xeric and native plants in residential gardens. When it’s not windy, my moth sheet is always full and I disturb hungry songbirds every time I go out the door.


I can remember ferocious noise when I was a little girl. Looking back it must have been a good year for cicadas. Don’t remember hearing them except that one year.

Can’t remember when we last had to ‘wash insects’ off the windscreen.

But we have a garden. With insects and birds.


It’s hard enough to get them to care about charismatic mega fauna. There was that disgusting rant by Ralph Norman of SC about how he hopes an endangered species of bat goes extinct because the government shouldn’t care about it. Personally I think that kind of talk should make you lose office but many of their constituents probably feel similarly. I would put money on a majority of our politicians being unable to name a native species of insect in their area.


It’s very hard not to be consumed by dread

Here are a couple of articles with ideas that help me:

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Your second link weaves smoothly into iNatting.
Listen to music - tick.
Learn and teach - tick

contemplation is observing

Well, I can’t fully be on board with that. The article draws analogies with drug addicts – but think of the traumatized people who do not become drug addicts, even when the opportunity presents itself; they say no to that first hit. It draws analogies with traumatized children who grow up to traumatize their own children – but think of the ones who make the decision to break that cycle. The fact that some people make those choices means that we had a choice.


Yes, but our choices are ultimately limited by what behaviors and ideas we have been exposed to in the past, what mental functions our brains are physically capable of performing, all kinds of things – I guess this gets into the question of free will in general, which is probably outside the scope of this thread… but I don’t know, it fits in with how I view free will, and it made me feel better about the upcoming awfulness.

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It isn’t all doom and gloom. I have lived on a 20 Ha property for the last 28 years, in an area with many forested hills. I have seen an increase in native plants and animals since I saved the property from overgrazing and started planting in earnest. Things can improve, if you make an effort and stop grazing animals. You can improve the local climate and make the environment much more welcoming, you will see positive results.


it’s a weird ecology year but not all bad. There are so many barn spiders this year i need to start removing them from my front porch because it’s become unusable! I like barn spiders but there has to be 50 or more now. Last year there was just one at each corner which was manageable (don’t worry they are on all other sides of the house too!). There are also tons of mosquitos this year due to record heavy rainfall. Fireflies sadly seemed less abundant this year than some years, as did bees and monarchs. But i also live in a new place so it is hard to compare. Perhaps as i improve the habitat here i will get more insects, like what agileantechinus said.


i won’t say much to avoid going off topic but addiction is VERY complicated and links to trauma yes but also neurodivergence, societal oppression, genetics, and a bunch of other stuff. I don’t think its accurate or helpful to look at addiction as a moral failing… there’s that aspect in some cases yes but often times there are other explanations that make more sense. Same with passing down trauma. Obviously it takes strength and courage to break the trauma cycle, but it’s a very complex issue and some people don’t get much of a chance. Doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible for their actions… but just… it’s not as simple as people just being bad. The fact you were able to choose doesn’t mean everyone is able to.


I remember walking in the woods with my family as a kid (in the '90s so not all that long ago) and being amazed at how my uncle could turn over a rock or log and show us different kinds of salamanders. My younger siblings fondly remember this as well. Now as an adult with more knowledge than I had back then, I’m very hard pressed to find even one salamander in the same areas we used to go walking in.

And I very much remember driving in certain areas and having insects all over your windshield. We’d drive over to my aunt and uncle’s house and on the way was a street that was next to a heavily wooded swamp. We’d roll our windows up going through “bug alley”. Now over the years the area has been developed with more houses and condos and that little swamp just keeps getting smaller and smaller.


One of my favorite things to do is sit on my back deck and just observe the goings on in my little 1/3 acre postage stamp of a lot. I noticed a lot less birds in my yard this year compared to years past. Even last year when there was a mysterious illness killing birds along the Atlantic seaboard, my little backyard shred of wilderness was alive and loud with activity. What changed this year? I did remove over 50 feet of multiflora rose bushes, and Japanese barberry. Is that what was drawing them in, the berries and thousands of rose hips? I can’t say. The squirrels are as present as ever. Last year was a mast year for the red oaks at my house and the squirrel/chipmunk population exploded. Too many in my opinion, as they killed every single oak seedling I planted (hundreds) and even dug up the pawpaw seeds I buried. I hope next year there’s more of an equilibrium and my trees stand a chance. There are no shortage of mosquitoes this year, and the bat population I see in my yard every summer seems to have swelled. The deafening roar of the crickets is still there. For all the negativity out there in the world, it’s not ALL bad.


This is so important. I think, especially as environmentalists, we get sucked into how overwhelming the problem may seem but we have all the tools and most of the knowledge to still mitigate quite a bit. At this point our major obstacle is public acceptance and widespread implementation. Anecdotal but especially this past year I’ve noticed attitudes shifting and people being much more open to climate solutions in my neck of the woods

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