Depend bug splats on vehicles to review insect decline, UK drivers urged | Bugs


Scientists from British citizens can shed light on the worrying decline in insects with a new app that records insect splashes on license plates.

Older drivers will remember scrubbing large numbers of splashed insects off windshields after driving for the past few decades. However, a 2019 study that analyzed license plates after traveling in Kent found a 50% decrease in splashed errors compared to 2004.

The Buglife charity has just launched the free Bugs Matter app that people can use to collect valuable data. Users start cleaning their license plate before a trip, which is then tracked by the app to collect location and time data.

A grid that is emailed for printing is then placed over the license plates and the user counts the error spots within the squares and enters the total into the app. An image of the plate is also uploaded and the counting software can be used to check the total.

“A lot of people are finding they don’t have to remove bug splashes from their windshields as often as they did 20 or 30 years ago,” said Buglife’s Andrew Whitehouse, who worked with Kent, Gwent, Essex and Somerset Wildlife Trusts on the app.

“The declining abundance of flying insects should be a big concern for everyone as these essential creatures are the little things that make the world go round,” said Whitehouse. “The Bugs Matter app gives everyone the chance to participate in essential surveillance that helps us better understand the health of our insect populations and our environment at large.”

Scientists have warned that insect populations “die by a thousand cuts,” with many falling at “terrifying” rates that “tear the tapestry of life apart”. With millions of species, insects are by far the most diverse and abundant animals on earth and outnumber humans by 17 times.

They are essential to the ecosystems that humankind depends on by pollinating plants, providing food for other creatures, and recycling nature’s waste. In the UK, the ranges of many species of bumblebee more than halved between 1960 and 2012, and the number of butterflies fell by nearly 50% between 1976 and 2017. A survey of insects hitting the windshields of cars in rural Denmark found an 80% decrease in incidence between 1997 and 2017.

“The main causes of insect decline are the use of chemicals on our land, roadsides and gardens, and habitat loss,” said Paul Tinsley-Marshall of the Kent Wildlife Trust. “However, we need a lot more data to determine trends. This will reinforce our call for a reduction in pesticide use and better, better connected insect habitats. “

Gemma Bodé of the Gwent Wildlife Trust said, “With insect clouds a thing of the past on a summer evening, this survey will most likely confirm our worst fears. Insects are so important to all of us in many ways, including pollinating our plants. It is therefore important that as many people as possible take part. “