Talk about learning self-sufficience.

Wild Things

The world is undergoing an insect apocalypse, with our buggy friends experiencing global mass population decreases at an estimated 2 percent yearly due to a woeful combination of climate change, pesticides, habitat loss, and other human-made ills.

How are flora — which often rely on insects for pollination — adapting to this massive change within the worldwide food chain? Researchers in France have now revealed one way: turning to self-pollination.

In a new study published in the journal New Phytologist, researchers have found that wildflowers in a patch of farm meadow in the Paris region have increasingly adapted to self-fertilization.

They focused on field pansies (Viola arvensis) of today and compared them to field pansies grown from seeds that were harvested from 1992 to 2001. To compare the two populations, the scientists performed population genetics analysis, measured physical plant traits and exposed them to bumblebees to see which flowers they preferred.

From their analysis, researchers found that today's field pansies have increased self-pollination by 27 percent — and also are smaller, make less nectar, and are less attractive to the bumblebees compared to pansies grown from ancestral seeds.

Bee Careful

These findings may sound great at first glance: plants can rapidly adapt to the presence of fewer insects. But a statement from the researchers called it a "vicious cycle" because this trait towards self-fertilization "could in turn exacerbate the decline of these insects."

This is terrible for a whole host of reasons. Insects are a major food source for many larger animals such as frogs, birds, and other fauna. They're also integral to the process of decomposition, like how flies or dung beetles process waste.

Also, important fruit crops rely on insects for pollination and it would be a massive scientific undertaking to genetically breed them to become self-pollinators.

And also importantly, insects are wonderful creatures and figure prominently in human lore and culture. Our world would be a poorer place without them, and that's why it's essential to safeguard and promote the insect kingdom.

More on insects: These Dancing Bugs Are Straight Out of a Miyazaki Film

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