New analysis of data from the 2022 Bugs Matter survey suggests alarming declines in insect numbers in Kent. The Citizen science programme suggests there has been a dramatic decline in Kent insect numbers, since the UK Government approved the use of lethal pesticides.
The number of flying insects sampled on number plates by citizen scientists has declined by a massive 74% since 2004. The figures show an increase from last year’s figures, which showed a 72% decline between 2004 and 2021. The news comes just a week after the UK Government announced the permitted use of the banned pesticide thiamethoxam (a neonicotinoid) on sugar beet crops in England for the third year running, even after advocating for a global pesticide reduction target at the UN COP15 Biodiversity Conference in Montreal in December 2022.
A single teaspoon of the neonicotinoid pesticide is enough to kill 1.25 billion bees. The Bugs Matter Citizen Science Survey uses an innovative method for the large-scale surveying of flying insect abundance across the UK. The survey runs every summer and involves citizen scientists recording the number of insect splats on their vehicle number plates following a journey. Counting insects not only gives an estimate of the abundance of insect life but is also a measure of the health of the environment, so when their numbers fall it is an indication that nature is in trouble.
The Bugs Matter data also indicates that insect declines appear to be happening at a higher rate in Kent compared to the rest of the UK, where a 64% national decline in the number of bug splats on number plates was recorded across the same time period.
Kent has been termed ‘The Garden of England’ for hundreds of years, thanks to its scenic hills, fertile farmland and fruit-filled orchards. In fact, over 70% of Kent is farmland, making it a valuable food producer for the rest of the UK. This is despite the widespread increase in housing estates popping up on farmland across the county.
The results from these first few years are concerning
The results from the Bugs Matter surveys inform a growing requirement for conservation research, policy and practice targeted at insects. It is also hoped that the survey method could be adopted in other countries, with citizen scientists across the planet taking part to compile a hugely valuable global dataset.
Andrew Whitehouse from Buglife said “For the second year running, Bugs Matter has shown potentially catastrophic declines in the abundance of flying insects in Kent and across the UK. It doesn’t have to be this way, but urgent action is required to address the loss of the diversity and abundance of insect life.
The 2023 Bugs Matter survey season will begin on 1st June 2023. Those keen to get involved can download the free Bugs Matter app now for both ios or android, to sign up for next year’s survey.