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Environment Minister Svenja Schulze says concerns over insect extinction have prompted demands for better safeguards. New research suggests 40 percent of insect species could be wiped out over the next few decades.

Plummeting numbers of insect species, partly as a result of widespread pesticide use, has prompted Germany's Environment Minister Svenja Schulze to call for a new law to protect bugs.

The newspaper Bild am Sonntag cited the Social Democrat (SPD) minister as saying that better legal protection for insects would also protect humanity's future.

"We humans need insects," Schulze said. "They deserve protection from their own law. This not only to protect stag beetles and earth bumblebees, but above all ourselves."

This beetle can measure up to 17cm in length, in part thanks to its enormous mandibles - the pair of appendages near its mouth. Also known as the 'sabertooth longhorn beetle' this insect dwells in the rainforests of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, the Guianas and Brazil.

There are 11 species of the giant weta in the world, and the largest can be up to 10cm in length - not including their spindly legs or long antennae. They're also known to be rather heavy - with one example recording 70g. The beetles are unique to New Zealand, and all but one species are considered endangered.

Among the largest insects on earth, the Goliath beetle can measure up to 11cm and weigh 100 grams in the larval stage (although adults are around half this weight). There are five species of Goliath beetle. They're found in tropical rainforests in Africa, where they mainly eat tree sap and fruit.

This butterfly is the largest in the world, with females' wingspans reaching just over 25cm. An endangered species, it is restricted to about 100km of coastal rainforest in the Oro Province in eastern Papua New Guinea. The species was named in 1907 in honor of Alexandra of Denmark.

This is what's known as a 'spider wasp' because - yep, you guessed it - it hunts tarantula spiders. They use their sting - one of the most painful insect stings in the world - to paralyze their prey before hauling it to their nest, where they lay a single egg on the victim, which when it hatches to a larva eats the prey alive. At about 5cm long, it's one of the largest wasps in the animal kingdom.

This is a species of rhinoceros beetle, known for its feisty behavior. Named after Atlas, a Titan condemned to hold up the sky for eternity in Greek mythology, the male beetles can reach up to 13cm in length. They're found in southern Asia, particularly Indonesia.

The giant water bug encompasses a large species of carnivorous freshwater insects, which includes the 'Lethocerus' that can grow to more than 12cm in length. Their large foreleg pincers are used to catch underwater prey like small fish and frogs. In some places they're known as 'toe biters' because of their tendency to deliver a painful nip when disturbed by swimmers that get too close. 

This insect may have a tiny body, but it's wingspan measures a whopping 25-30cm, and it has a wing surface area of about 400cm squared. It lives in dry rainforests and shrublands throughout South Asia, South East Asia, and East Asia. It doesn't eat - it's only purpose as an adult is to find a mate, which takes around two weeks. Once they breed and the females lay eggs, they die.

This exquisite insect is usually between 1.5cm and 16cm long, but can reach lengths of up to 20cm. They are carnivorous and feed mainly on other insects, although females sometimes eat their mate just after, or even during, mating. Formidable predators, the praying mantis can turn its head 180 degrees to observe its surroundings with all five of its eyes.

Only officially discovered in 2016, the only recorded spotting of this superbly long stick insect measured it at 62.4cm. Found in the Guangxi Zhuang region of China by Zhao Li, of the Insect Museum of West China, it's the longest insect in the world. Li brought it back to the museum where it laid six eggs - after hatching, even the smallest offspring measured 26cm.

Schulze called for Agriculture Ministry funds to be diverted to tackle the issue: "Agriculture receives billions in state resources. I want to use these for solutions that ensure the survival of insects and farmers."

The planned Insect Protection Act will likely contain binding requirements for changes to rules governing nature conservation, water resources, and plant protection, while further restricting the use of fertilizers, the German dpa news agency reported.

The law forms part of the Environment Ministry's Insect Protection Action Plan, which is due to be presented to the cabinet in April.

According to Bild, the wider plan earmarks some €100 million ($113 million) annually to protect insects, including €25 million for insect research.

Other measures include stricter regulation of pesticide use, including the complete banning of the controversial crop protector Glyphosate by 2023, new night-time lighting restrictions, as insects are disorientated by light, and limits on the use of new land for housing or road projects by 2050.

Concerns about threats to the biodiversity of insects, especially pollinators, has been highlighted by scientists for years. Food security could be at risk, studies have shown.

Last week, a new Australian study published in the journal Biological Conservation, indicated that 40 percent of the world's insect species — including butterflies and moths, bees and wasps, beetles and dragonflies — are in decline, and could become extinct over the next few decades.

Several factors were cited including pesticide use, pollution, habitat loss, and wider climate change.

Similar research carried out in protected areas of Germany found that insect abundance had declined by three-quarters over less than three decades.

A petition for a referendum on preserving the diversity of species — better known as the "save the bees" petition — has gathered the legally required 10 percent of all eligible voters in the southern German state of Bavaria, two days before the end of the official registration period. The petition is aiming to make amendments to the Bavarian Nature Conservation Act.

The referendum aims to permanently safeguard and develop the diversity of flora and fauna species, and conserve and improve their habitats in order to prevent further loss of biodiversity. The objective is make 20 percent of land bee-friendly by 2025 and 30 percent by 2030. It also calls for improved environmental education.

The petition is backed by the Greens and the Ecological Democratic Party, as well as nature protection group LBV. Ludwig Hartmann, the Greens party leader for Bavaria, said people needed to keep signing the petition to send a clear signal to Markus Söder's Christian Social Union government: "It is time to turn the tide and set course for effective nature conservation in Bavaria," Hartmann said.

"The larger the turnout, the higher the pressure on Minister President Markus Söder to convert the demands of the people's petition for effective protection of species in Bavaria," said Agnes Becker, deputy chair of the Ecological Democratic Party in Bavaria.

The president of the Bavarian Farmer Federation, Walter Heidl, accused the activists of dismissing farmers' efforts. Many Bavarian farmers participate in agricultural environmental programs. "What annoys the farmers is that what they are already doing is completely ignored," Heidl said.

Gaining a head start on the proposed insect law, the southern German state of Bavaria has committed to reducing the use of pesticides, enhancing organic farming, and to expand the number of blossoming meadows to encourage pollination.

A Save the Bees petition, backed by several environmental groups, has already been signed by about 1.75 million people.

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