Insects underpin our natural world and their numbers can help us to better understand what is happening in our environment.
Citizen science - The Bugs Matter survey
We need lots of people to take part this summer, sharing findings from their journeys to help us understand more about our insect populations!
If you have a Smartphone you can take part following these easy steps
- Download the app which Kent Wildlife Trust developed. It was built by Natural Apptitude and is powered by the data collection platform Coreo. It is available free for both IOS and Android.
- Create an account to sign up, and if you live in Kent, Essex, Somerset or Gwent your splatometer will be posted to you, otherwise, you will receive a downloadable grid to print.
if you live outside the four listed counties and do not have access to a printer please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
- Start surveying on any journey you make in a vehicle between 1st June to 31st August.
- The more essential journeys you conduct the survey on the better - and counts of zero bugs are just as important to submit!
The concept is simple;
- Clean the number plate before making an essential journey in a vehicle.
- When you reach your destination, count the bugs squashed on the number plate using a ‘splatometer’ grid that you will receive when you sign up.
- A photo and details must then be submitted via the app.
- You don’t even need to be the driver of the vehicle you are travelling in - but you do need their permission.
- The app also includes a tutorial and some safety advice.
Why count squashed insects?
The methodology is based on the ‘windscreen phenomenon’, a term given to the observation that people tend to find fewer insects squashed on the windscreens of their cars compared to several decades ago.
We want to repeat this survey every year to build up a better understanding of insect populations. The survey uses an innovative insect sampling method conducted by members of the public to assess the difference in insect abundance over a number of years.
Insects are also a good indicator for measuring the success of our conservation work at landscape-scale.
The key finding of the previous study showed there were 50% fewer insects squashed on car number plates in 2019 than in 2004 led by the RSPB.
A growing body of recent evidence highlights population declines in insects and other invertebrates at global scales, the consequences of which are potentially catastrophic. Our Bugs Matter survey points to similar results with 50% fewer insects recorded in Kent since 2004.
By repeating the survey in Kent in 2019, Kent Wildlife Trust was able to compare the abundance of insects between these points in time. Kent Wildlife Trust found a significant difference in ‘splat density’ of approximately 50%, from an average of 0.2 splats per mile to 0.1 splats per mile.
The difference Kent Wildlife Trust has observed mirrors patterns of decline widely reported by others. However, more data over a number of years will be required to confirm the direction of any trend as this study is based on observations from only two points in time. This does not constitute a trend and cannot be interpreted as a decline.
Insect populations are susceptible to many different influences that vary year-to-year, like weather, habitat management, disease and predation. To fully understand insect populations they need to be monitored thoroughly at regular intervals over many years to reveal genuine trends which then become clear despite natural year-to-year variation.
Insects face mass extinction
Insects pollinate three quarters of our food crops, as well as being the main food source for many birds, small mammals, fish and reptiles. Insects are a critical component of ecosystems and animal life is at risk. Without them, life on earth would simply collapse. Patterns and trends in insect numbers are nuanced however, and there is a need for more data to fully understand what is happening.
You can help by taking part in our survey this summer as well as taking two simple actions at home:
1. STOP killing insects by reducing our use of pesticides where we live, work and farm
2. START to create more insect-friendly habitats in your garden
Through Projects like Bugs Matter, Wild about Gardens, and Roadside Reserves we work together to address the causes of insect loss, halt and reverse them, and secure a sustainable future for insect life and for ourselves.
Climate and Nature Emergency
We are in the midst of a climate and nature emergency. Around the world we can see the devastating impact of climate change on people and the natural world around us. At Kent Wildlife Trust we work together to collate data, understand the causes and work towards reversing the decline in order to secure a sustainable future for all insect life and ourselves.
Without bees and pollinators we will struggle to produce food and survive in the future – can you help fund our natural solution?
Read more about the issues facing our insects