Declining insect populations may be indicated by declining numbers on the front of vehicles (Getty)
Populations of flying insects in the UK are collapsing rapidly, with numbers down 64 per cent across the country since 2004, new research has found.
Conservation organizations are now calling for “urgent” action to address and reverse the decline, which is having a major impact on ecosystems everywhere and threatening the food supply for a wide range of animals and humans.
The latest figures, based on an annual survey of insects on license plates, show a significant drop over the past year, with 5 percent fewer insects detected in 2022 compared to 2021.
The results of the citizen science ‘Bugs Matter’ survey come as world leaders gather to discuss the global decline in biodiversity at the UN’s Cop15 summit in Montreal understand and what needs to be done to address the problem.
“Insects make up most of life on Earth,” the organizations said in a statement announcing the results of the survey.
“They underpin food chains, pollinate most of the world’s crops and provide natural pest control services.
“Without insects, life on Earth would collapse and humanity’s ability to survive on our planet would be threatened.”
The causes of rapid insect mortality around the world include habitat loss and degradation, air pollution, the climate crisis, pollution of watercourses, use of pesticides, and the development of wildlife areas.
Andrew Whitehouse, Operations Manager at Buglife, 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.”
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The team said they would like to replicate their survey method in other countries to gain a better understanding of insect declines around the world.
Bugs Matter staff are currently updating their bug counting app in time for the 2023 survey season, including a trial using artificial intelligence to automatically detect the number of bugs splattered on a license plate.
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.”
The 2023 Bugs Matter survey season begins on June 1 of next year.