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‘Terrifying’ insect declines in Wales as numbers fall 55% in less than 20 years, survey suggests

05 May 2022 3 minutes Read
Bees

A citizen science project asking people to count squashed bugs on their car number plates suggests flying insects have declined nearly 55% in Wales in less than 20 years.

The ‘Bugs Matter’ survey asked members of the public to record the number of flying insects squashed on their number plate in 2019 and 2021, and compared it with data from a survey led by the RSPB using the same method in 2004.

Before making an essential journey in their vehicle, drivers cleaned their number plate, and afterwards counted the moths, flies, aphids, bees and flying beetles quashed on it using a “splatometer grid” supplied as part of the survey.

They then submitted a photo and count details via the Bugs Matter app and the data was converted into “splats per mile” to make it comparable between journeys.

The Buglife ‘splatometer’ used in the survey on a number plate.

Across Wales, England and Scotland, the number of insects sampled on vehicle number plates fell by 59% between 2004 and 2021, the survey found. England saw the biggest declines of 65% compared with 17 years ago, while Scotland saw a 28% drop.

There were too few surveys in Northern Ireland to draw separate conclusions, the conservationists said.

Matt Shardlow, chief executive at Buglife, said: “This vital study suggests that the number of flying insects is declining by an average of 34% per decade, this is terrifying.

“We cannot put off action any longer, for the health and wellbeing of future generations this demands a political and a societal response, it is essential that we halt biodiversity decline – now.”

‘Alarming’

The survey led by Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife has attempted to quantify that and gather more data on what is happening to bugs in the UK, against a backdrop of global falls in the number of insects.

Bugs are crucial to a healthy functioning environment, pollinating most of the world’s crops, performing natural pest control, breaking down organic matter and returning nutrients into the soil, conservationists said.

Counting insects estimates how they are faring in our towns and countryside but also shows how the wider natural world is doing.

Though the data showed significant drops in insects, drawing robust conclusions about long-term trends in insect populations would require data from multiple years, over long time periods, and over large spatial scales.

But the Bugs Matter citizen science survey has demonstrated that it has the potential to generate such data, they said.

Paul Hadaway, director of conservation at Kent Wildlife Trust, said the declines in insects reflected the enormous threats to and loss of wildlife more broadly across the country.

“These declines are happening at an alarming rate and without concerted action to address them we face a stark future,” he warned.

“Insects and pollinators are fundamental to the health of our environment and rural economies.

“We need action for all our wildlife now by creating more and bigger areas of habitats, providing corridors through the landscape for wildlife and allowing nature space to recover.”

To take part in the Bugs Matter survey this summer people can visit here.


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Glen
Glen
22 days ago

Years ago I’d have to douse myself in insect repellent before going fishing on a warm summer evening otherwise I’d get eaten alive.

Nowadays it would appear ‘gnat bites’ are a thing of the past and I have no need of repellent.

Llinos
Llinos
22 days ago
Reply to  Glen

I’m still waiting for a warm summer evening this year. It’s freezing!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
22 days ago

A no-swat and release/rescue policy is a small help…

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
22 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Exactly, why kill something when you can just release it outside with less mess?

GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
22 days ago

We need more trees and forests. The fact that the farming industry destroys swathes of land for animal use is a massive problem.Just look at our mountains, they should be covered in trees, not used as grasslands for sheep.

the nfu
the nfu
22 days ago
Reply to  GW Atkinson

BURN THE UNBELIEVER!

Glyn Jones
Glyn Jones
22 days ago

Felly, Lywodraeth Cymru, rhowch y gorau i lurgunio ein tiroedd treftadol drwy godi miloedd ar filoedd o dai di-angen arnynt, pan fo’r boblogaeth naturiol yn syrthio. Gwarchodwch y tir y mae ein hynafiaid yn gorffwys ynddo, a’i feithrin, a’i ymgeleddu. Er Cymru well i bawb.

thuggee
thuggee
22 days ago

we are so doomed. but some people got really rich, so that’s fine.

Llinos
Llinos
22 days ago

IS this a decline though? Or is it an example of natural selection at work? Perhaps the dumb bugs ended up on number plates, but the cleverer bugs decided to give the big long tarmac rivers with the fast moving shiny loud rocks a miss.

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