Splats on British license plates show shocking bug decline

·2 min read

Bug are disappearing in Great Britain at a shocking rate. The number of flying insects has dropped by 59% since 2004, with an even greater 65% in England alone. Think about that. It's just staggering. And remember, that's just in the last 18 years.

This data was gathered by the Bugs Matter survey, which effectively counted the number of dead insects on license plates (aka "number plates" in the U.K.). In 2019 and 2021, members of the public were asked to record the number of squashed flying insects on their number plates. They were provided with a "splatometer grid" to place on their plates, told to clean it before lengthy journeys, count up the carnage upon arrival and log it in the Bugs Matter app. That data was then compared with data from a 2004 survey that used the same method. You can find the full report here.

Great, some might say. Bugs are gross and cleaning them from the front of your car is terrible. True, but they're also vital for a healthy ecosystem, and perhaps more convincingly, flying insects pollinate the produce people eat or that is fed to the animals people eat. Many flying insects also kill pest insects. Basically, bugs disappearing is very very bad.

“The results from the Bugs Matter study should shock and concern us all," said Paul Hadaway of Kent Wildlife Trust, which along with an organization called Bugs Life, funded the survey. "We are seeing declines in insects which reflect the enormous threats 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. 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.”

Those living in Great Britain can participate in the 2022 Bugs Matter survey by downloading the app of the same name. People can start surveying during any journey taken between June 1 and August 31.

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