Fifty-six years after Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” warned of bird die-offs from pesticides, a new biocrisis may be emerging. A study published last fall documented a 76 percent decline in the total seasonal biomass of flying insects netted at 63 locations in Germany over the last three decades. Losses in midsummer, when these insects are most numerous, exceeded 80 percent.

This alarming discovery, made bymostly amateur naturalists who make up the volunteer-run Entomological Society Krefeld, raised an obvious question: Was this happening elsewhere? Unfortunately, that question is hard to answer because of another problem: a global decline of field naturalists who study these phenomena…

Are we in the midst of a global insect Armageddon that most of us have failed to notice? Here’s another data point: A decades-long decline in plant-pollinating hawk moths has been reported in the Northeast, but its causes and consequences are uncertain because we know so little about the ecology of these insects. In days past, compiling such information would have made a respectable life’s work for a Linnaeus, Humboldt or Darwin. Now such creatures are often ignored because studying them seems unlikely to generate publications, headlines or grants that provide academics with tenure and prestige.