Insects play an important role in pollinating plants and are a source of food for birds, mammals and amphibians. "This decrease has always been suspected but has turned out to be more severe than previously thought".
"The flying insect community as a whole. has been decimated over the last few decades", said the study, which was conducted by Researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands and the Entomological Society Krefeld in Germany.
The long-term study used Malaise traps - a sophisticated kind of insect net which catches a wide variety of insects - set up in 63 German nature protection areas over the course of 27 years.
Comparing samples from this year to 1989, the researchers found that the weight of insects in the same traps had dropped 76%. "Yet, this dramatic decline has occurred", Hallmann said in a statement. At some points in mid-summer, the number fell by as much as 82 percent.
In recent years, biologists have begun to cite the "windshield phenomenon" as a measure of the decline, noting that they are no longer scraping splattered insects from their auto windshields after lengthy drives.
Concluding, they add: "Whatever the causal factors responsible for the decline, they have a far more devastating effect on total insect biomass than has been appreciated previously". According to Caspar Hallmann (Radboud University), who performed the statistical analyses, "All these areas are protected and a lot of them are managed nature reserves". Previous research has shown an overall pattern of decline in insect diversity and abundance, but has focused on single species or taxonomic groups, rather than monitoring insect biomass over an extensive period.
Latty says it's particularly worrying that the study recorded the declines in protected areas, meaning that for agricultural or urban areas the trend could be even more pronounced. Instead, they speculate intensive agriculture and pesticide use may be to blame.
Insects are essential for life on Earth as they act as pollinators and prey for other species.
Caspar Hallmann, a member of the research team at Radboud, described the figures as "very alarming".
Germany is losing its flying insects - and that could be bad news for the entire planet.