A study found that between 2004 and 2021, there was a huge drop in the number of insects “scattered per mile” on cars in the United Kingdom, with the decline being particularly bad in England.


May 5, 2022

Insects on the registration number of the car in the UK

David Chapman / Alami

New evidence suggests that there is some truth in anecdotes that the windshields of today’s cars are covered with fewer dead insects than in the past.

A A scientific study for UK citizens found the number of flying insects scattered on cars fell by 58.5% between 2004 and 2021, after drivers counted how many were crushed on their license plates. “It’s dramatic and disturbing,” said Matt Shardlow of Buglife, the charity that runs the work.

Fears have risen in recent years that some food crops could be undermined by global insect decline due to the loss of pollinators, with a recent study finding that climate change and agriculture have halved the number of insects in the worst affected. regions. But most sightings of flying insects are based on their distribution, not their abundance.

To better understand how flying insect populations change, Buglife enlisted drivers to wipe their license plates before traveling and then use a sampling grid (“splatometer”) to count the number of dead insects when they arrive. to your destination and upload the results in an app. Dividing the number of insects by the distance traveled, the researchers came up with the unit “splats per mile”.

This measure fell from 0.238 per mile on average in 2004 to 0.104 per mile in 2021, or a drop of 58.5% across the United Kingdom. “This confirms what we already knew – that insect populations are in free fall. There seems to be no credible explanation for these findings other than a huge drop in insect abundance, “he said. Dave Gulson at the University of Sussex, UK, who did not participate in the study.

The rate of decline is similar to that reported by study from 2017which found a 76 percent drop in the biomass of flying insects in Germany in 27 years.

The decline found by the Buglife study is the largest in England at 65 percent, reaching 55 percent in Wales and the smallest in Scotland at 27.9 percent. Shardlow says possible explanations for regional differences are lower light pollution, lower use of insecticides due to less arable agriculture and less impact of climate change further north.

A publication published last month found that the number of moths in the United Kingdom had more than halved between 1968 and 2016 in one of their key habitats, deciduous forests, although the forest area expanded over the period. The authors said climate change could be partly to blame.

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