Distribution of flying insects across landscapes with intensive agriculture in temperate areas

C.J.M. Musters (Corresponding author), Tracy R. Evans, J.M.R. Wiggers, Maarten van 't-Zelfde, Geert R. de Snoo

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The abundance of insects has been strongly decreasing over the last decades, at least in the temperate zones of North America and Europe. This decrease has generally been attributed to increased human activity, especially increased agricultural production. Therefore, one would expect that insect abundance is spatially distributed according to human land use, more specifically that the abundance of insects in agricultural fields should be affected by the distance to (semi)natural areas. We tested this expectation on an extensive dataset of flying insects from Illinois, USA, and the Netherlands, Europe. Flying insects were collected with yellow sticky boards in agricultural fields at distances up to 566 m from (semi)natural areas. We did not find any effect of distance to (semi)natural area on the abundance of flying insects, after correcting for the confounding variables ‘landscape complexity’, ‘vegetation height’ and ‘plot locations’ (interior vs edge of the field). One might prematurely infer from this that (semi)natural areas do not affect flying insect abundance. We argue that knowing that flying insects are highly mobile, both active and passive, although sticky boards sample local insect abundance, abundance may be homogenized over a relatively large area in open landscapes. Therefore, the study of the effect of nature conservation management on flying insects should be done on spatially large scales, e.g., the landscape level.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107889
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Abundance
  • Census techniques
  • Distance to (semi)natural areas
  • Landscape complexity
  • Spatial distribution
  • Spatial level of scale
  • Yellow sticky boards
  • international
  • Plan_S-Compliant_OA


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