New bug splatter app to reveal more about insect populations

Vehicle drivers and passengers asked to count bugs squashed on registration plates after an essential journey from 1st June.

An innovative app to survey insect populations is launched today by Kent Wildlife Trust with insect charity Buglife. The user-friendly Bugs Matter app brings meaningful citizen science to the pockets of thousands and will help wildlife organisations better understand how our insect populations are faring.  

Smartphone users can take part by downloading the free Bugs Matter app from their app stores. The concept is simple; before making a usual or necessary journey in a vehicle, clean the number plate. When you reach your destination count the bugs squashed on the number plate using a ‘splatometer’ grid, which will get posted to you when you download the app. A photo and details are then submitted. You don’t even need to be the driver of the vehicle you are travelling in (though you will need their permission).   

The survey, which was originally developed by the RSPB in 2004 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. Kent Wildlife Trust's previous survey in 2019 found 50% fewer bugs than in 2004.

There is growing evidence of insect decline on a global scale, caused by habitat loss and pesticides. The consequences are potentially catastrophic for the integrity of our ecosystems, the future survival of other wildlife and the pollination of crops. 

However, evidence is still lacking or only partly understood for many insect groups and species. Gathering evidence to show the need for urgent action is the first step in making a difference.  In the UK only butterflies and moths have been monitored in enough detail to allow trends to be fully understood.  

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 safely during their essential 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.”   

Craig Macadam Conservation Director for Buglife added  

“Many people remark on not having to clean their windscreens because of bug splatter as much as twenty years ago and alarming data has come in from Germany on the decline in flying insects. Bugs Matter gives every citizen the opportunity to take part in important monitoring that can alert us to the current declines in the United Kingdom giving more impetus and direction to the vital work of arresting these declines.” 

 Download the app which is available free in both IOS and Android.be ready to survey from 1 June to 31 August 2021. 

For more info please visit: kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/bugs-matter.