Survey finds decline in insect numbers

Figures for Scotland bucked the trend and showed an upward trend.Figures for Scotland bucked the trend and showed an upward trend.
Figures for Scotland bucked the trend and showed an upward trend.
This year’s national Bugs Matter Citizen Science Survey found a 64% decline in insect numbers sampled on vehicle number plates between 2004 and 2022 across the UK.

The findings highlight the urgent need for more, large-scale research on insects, and action to reverse declines in their abundance.

The results of the survey, led by conservation charities Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife, reveal further shocking declines in the numbers of flying insects in the UK, supporting the call that urgent action is needed to restore insect populations.

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The survey runs every summer and involves citizen scientists recording the number of insect splats on their vehicle number plates following a journey.

The latest report also found a 5% greater decline than that observed between 2004 and 2021, although figures for Scotland showed an upward trend.

There are many causes of insect declines – these include the loss and damage to habitats, climate change, pollution of rivers and streams, use of pesticides, and development of wild spaces.

The Bugs Matter team are now busy with upgrades to their app in time for the 2023 survey season, including a trial of artificial intelligence to automatically detect the number of insect splats on a number plate.

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

"However, we need more to take part 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.”

Andrew Whitehouse at Buglife said: “For the second year running, Bugs Matter has shown potentially catastrophic declines in the abundance of flying insects. Urgent action is required to address the loss of the diversity and abundance of insect life. We will look to our leaders at COP15 for decisive action to restore nature at scale – both for wildlife, and for the health and well-being of future generations.”

Next year’s survey will begin on June 1. Those keen to get involved can download the free app from the Apple Store and Google Play.

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