Counting the number of bedbugs suppressed on people’s car numbers shows that the number of flying insects has fallen by almost 60% in less than 20 years.

The civic science project on the “windshield phenomenon” is mixed testimony from drivers that they collect fewer moths, flies, aphids, bees and flying beetles on the windshields than in the past.

Now a survey conducted by the Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife has tried to quantify this and gather more data on what is happening with bugs in the UK amid a global drop in insect numbers.

The Bugs Matter poll asked members of the public to record the number of flying insects crushed on their license plate in 2019 and 2021, and compare it with data from a poll conducted by the RSPB using the same method in 2004.

Before making the necessary trip in their car, drivers cleaned the license plate, and then counted the insects crushed on it, using a “splatometer network”, which was supplied as part of the survey.

They then sent a photo and counting details through the Bugs Matter app, and that data was converted to “mile icons” to make them comparable between trips.

Insect decline is happening at a “terrible rate”

The number of insects selected on car numbers decreased by 59% between 2004 and 2021, the survey showed.

According to conservationists, bedbugs are crucial to the healthy functioning of the environment by pollinating most of the world’s crops, carrying out natural pest control, breaking down organic matter and returning nutrients to the soil.

Insect counting assesses how they live in our cities and rural areas, but also shows how things are going in the natural world.

“We can no longer postpone action”

The numbers of insects such as moths, butterflies, flies, beetles and ants, aphids, wasps, bees and lace, varied across the UK, with England experiencing the largest decline of 65% compared to 17 years.

In Wales, 55% fewer insects were recorded, in Scotland 28% less than in 2004, and in Northern Ireland there were too few surveys to draw individual conclusions, conservationists said.

Although the data showed a significant drop in the number of insects, to draw accurate conclusions about long-term trends in insect populations will require data over several years, over long periods of time and on a large spatial scale.

Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife, said: “This important study shows that the number of flying insects is declining by an average of 34% over the decade, it’s horrible.

“We can no longer procrastinate, for the health and well-being of future generations it requires a political and social response, it is very important that we stop reducing biodiversity – now.”

Paul Hadway, director of wildlife protection at the Kent Wildlife Trust, said the decline in insect numbers reflects huge threats and loss of wildlife on a larger scale across the country.

A civic research project asking people to count crushed errors on their car numbers estimates that the number of flying insects has dropped by almost 60% in less than 20 years.  The "windshield phenomenon" is an anecdotal testimony of drivers that they collect fewer moths, flies, aphids, bees and flying beetles on their windshields than in the past.  Release date: Thursday, May 5, 2022
In Wales, there are 55% fewer insects. In Scotland there was a drop of 28%

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

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

“We need action for all of our wildlife, creating more and more habitats, providing corridors across the landscape for wildlife and allowing natural space to recover.”

• To take part in the Bugs Matter survey this summer, people can visit it Buglife.

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