Flying insect numbers plunge 64% since 2004, UK survey finds | Bugs

Flying insect numbers plunge 64% since 2004, UK survey finds | Insects

The number of insect splashes on license plates in the UK fell by 64% between 2004 and 2022, according to a survey.

Every summer, citizen scientists use an app to record the number of insect sprays on their license plates after a trip. The latest Bugs Matter report, produced by Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife, found a further decline in 2022 compared to 2021, with the long-term decline increasing by five percentage points.

The survey supports other scientific studies showing a large and sustained decline in flying insects in western Europe this century, potentially threatening food chains, pollination of plants and crops, and ultimately life on earth.

Buglife’s Andrew Whitehouse said: “For the second year in a row, Bugs Matter has shown a potentially catastrophic decline in the number of flying insects. Urgent action is needed to address the loss of diversity and abundance of insect life. We will expect our leaders at Cop15 to act decisively to restore nature at scale – both for wildlife and for the health and well-being of future generations.”

The study found a sustained decline from 2021 to 2022 in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, but this summer appears to have been a better season for flying insects in Scotland. The decline since 2004 in Scotland was 48.5% in 2021 but only 40.3% in 2022.

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The Bugs Matter survey data is collected when people download a free app and record the bugs that get sprayed on their license plates during summer car journeys. Almost 7,000 volunteers signed up and 4,140 trips were analyzed in the 2022 data. Excluded are short trips and trips in the rain.

The project is looking to recruit more participants for the 2023 taping, which begins June 1 next year.

Evan Bowen-Jones, chief executive of the Kent Wildlife Trust said: “Thanks to citizen scientists across the country we are able to have a better picture of the health of our insect populations and we are already seeing some worrying patterns in the data.

“However, we need more citizen scientists to participate in the Bugs Matter survey next year and into the future to understand whether we are seeing actual long-term trends or the impact of the extreme temperatures we faced in 2022.”