Why scientists are concerned about the number of bugs splattered on car license plates

Declining insect populations may be indicated by dwindling numbers found in the front of vehicles (Getty)

Flying insect populations in the UK are collapsing rapidly, with numbers falling by 64% across the country since 2004, new research has found.

Conservation charities are now calling for ‘urgent’ action to address and reverse the declines, which have major ramifications for ecosystems around the world, threatening food supplies for a vast array of animals as well as humans .

The latest figures, based on an annual survey of insects found on car license plates, show a considerable drop in the past year, with 5% fewer insects detected in 2022 compared to 2021.

Bugs Matter Citizen Science survey results come as world leaders gather to discuss global biodiversity decline at UN Cop15 summit in Montreal, with charities leading the survey – Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife – warning that the world needs “larger scale insect research” to better understand the extent of the declines and what needs to be done to fix the problem.

“Insects make up the largest proportion of life on Earth,” the organizations said in a statement announcing the survey results.

“They support food chains, pollinate most of the world’s crops and provide natural pest control services.

“Without insects, life on earth would collapse and humanity’s ability to survive on our planet would be threatened.”

The causes of the rapid disappearance of insects around the world include the loss and deterioration of habitats, air pollution, the climate crisis, the pollution of waterways, the use of pesticides and the development of spaces wild.

Andrew Whitehouse, Operations Manager at Buglife, said: “For the second year running, Bugs Matter has shown potentially catastrophic declines in the abundance of flying insects.

“Urgent action is needed to address the loss of 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.”

The team said they would like to see their survey method adopted in other countries, to better understand the decline of insects around the world.

Bugs Matter staff are currently updating their bug counting app in time for the 2023 survey season, including an AI trial to automatically detect the number of bugs splattered on a license plate.

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

“However, we need more citizen scientists to participate in the Bugs Matter survey next year and in the future, to understand if we are seeing any real long-term trends or the impact of the extreme temperatures we have been facing. in 2022.”

The 2023 Bugs Matter investigative season will start on June 1 next year.

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