Insects make up the great majority of the planets biodiversity, especially in terrestrial habitats. We currently live in the age of the insect and our existence is dependant on the complex relationships between the planets plant life and insect life for maintaining the conditions required for supporting human life.
The current number of described species of insect is over one million but due to the difficulty and expertise needed to identify and describe species only a small number of insect species have been officially described. It is estimated that there maybe up to 80 million species of insect on the planet. The majority of insect species that have been described are beetles but hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants) and diptera (two-winged flies) maybe the most speciose groups and are considered to be going through a rapid period of evolutionary biology.
This trend is matched locally with the majority of the Boroughs identified species being insects, and include some nationally rare and globally restricted species. Insects are very sensitive to changing climatic conditions and are amongst the first species to respond to any climate change. As Hastings is on the south-east coast it is one of the first places colonising species reach when moving north and west due to changing conditions. Sickle-bearing bush-cricket, ivy bee, tree bumblebee and western conifer seed bug are the most recent examples. Also the high summer temperatures and mild winter conditions of the south coast support species right on the edge of their northern range in Europe and a number of these species find a refuge in Hastings such as the weevil Cathormiocerus myrmecophilus.
A lot of conservation work is being carried out in Hastings to protect insect biodiversity as they are so important in maintaining a healthy natural environment for humans. Management plans for our seven nature reserves in Hastings are dedicated to managing habitats for insects as well as more conspicuous and popular groups such as flowering plants, birds and mammals. The first step towards any conservation management is identification and distribution. If you don’t accurately identify what biodiversity exists at a site you could make serious mistakes in habitat management.
This is a long term ongoing project but we are lucky to have a great deal of expertise in Hastings for the identification, study and management of insects. A great deal of work has been carried out recently to monitor and manage our nature reserves and green spaces correctly. Also a large amount of space has been created or adapted to benefit insect conservation over the last few years in Hastings which has had a very positive effect in expanding and improving insect habitat.
This section will eventually have species lists for each insect group with information on selected species that are of significant importance in Hastings & St. Leonards.