Worldwide declines in insect populations have sparked considerable concern. To date, however, significant research gaps exist, and many insect threats remain under-investigated and poorly understood. For instance, despite their charismatic bioluminescent displays and cultural and economic importance, the 2000-plus species of firefly beetles have yet to be the subject of a comprehensive threat analysis.
Writing in BioScience, Sara M. Lewis of Tufts University and her colleagues aim to fill the gap with a broad overview of the threats facing these diverse and charismatic species—as well as potential solutions that may lead to their preservation into the future. Lewis and colleagues catalog numerous threats, foremost among them habitat loss, followed closely by artificial light and pesticide use. The future is not bleak, however, and the authors describe considerable opportunities to improve the prospects of bioluminescent insects, including through the preservation of habitat, reduction of light pollution, lowered insecticide use, and more-sustainable tourism. Dr. Lewis and coauthors Candace Fallon and Michael Reed join us on this episode of BioScience Talks to shed light on these challenges and opportunities. Listeners are also invited to read Dr. Lewis's book on fireflies, linked below.