Drivers asked to count bugs splattered on cars to help document insect population numbers

·2-min read

Motorists are being asked to count how many bugs have splattered on their car’s number plates as part of a new study into insect numbers.

The survey is being accompanied by an app, which has been launched by insect charity Buglife along with Kent, Gwent, Essex and Somerset Wildlife Trusts, that allows users to document how many insects have collided with their car.

Buglife is asking users to clean their car’s number plate before making a journey. Then, when they reach the destination, they can place a ‘splatometer’ grid against the plate – which each user will receive upon downloading Buglife’s free-to-use Bugs Matter app – before taking a photo. These are then submitted via the app for analysis.

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Andrew Whitehouse, countries manager for Buglife added: “Many people remark on not having to clean bug splats off their car windscreens as much as they did twenty or thirty years ago.

“The falling abundance of flying insects should be a major concern to everybody as these essential creatures are, quite simply, the small things that run the world. Bugs Matter gives everybody the opportunity to take part in essential monitoring that will help us to better understand the health of our insect populations, and our environment as a whole.”

The survey is based on the ‘windscreen phenomenon’, which is a term referring to people tending to find fewer insects on their windscreens compared with several decades ago. Growing evidence suggests insect decline on a global scale is being caused by the destruction of habitats and the increasing use of pesticides.

However in the UK, only butterfly and moth numbers have been monitored in enough detail to highlight trends, which is why this new study is vital to find out more about insect numbers.

Dr Paul Tinsley Marshall, conservation evidence manager at Kent Wildlife Trust said: “Finding fewer squashed bugs on car number plates is concerning because it suggests their populations may be in trouble. The new Bugs Matter app has the advantage of being indiscriminate – sampling any and every insect hovering or flying about like aerial plankton.

“The main causes of their decline are chemical use across our countryside, road verges and gardens, and habitat loss – but we need lots more data to determine trends and people to take the survey during their day to day car travel. This will strengthen our call for a reduction in pesticide use and better, more joined up insect habitats as part of a Nature Recovery Network.”

The Bugs Matter app is available to download now for free with the survey period running from June 1 to August 31, 2021.

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