Citizen Scientists across the UK demonstrate that “Bugs Matter” this summer

Wednesday 6th September 2023

The end of the school summer holidays saw the conclusion of this year’s national insect survey, Bugs Matter, on 31 August.  Led by conservation charities Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife, the annual call to collaborate with citizen scientists across the UK generates crucial data regarding how national insect numbers are faring.  Bugs Matter, based on the “windscreen phenomenon”, is one of the UK’s few long-term citizen science surveys of flying insect abundance, generating important data.

Participation in this year’s Bugs Matter was once again outstanding, with citizen scientists collecting data over a staggering 198,476 miles of journeys across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

A total of 691 participants logged an impressive 6,538 journeys via the Bugs Matter app; this compares to a total of 5,386 journeys in 2022.

England saw the greatest number of journeys being completed (5,338 journeys), followed by Wales (612 journeys), Scotland (471 journeys) and Northern Ireland (106 journeys).

In 2023, participants recorded an average of 9 journeys each, ranging from short commutes to long-distance road trips. The science team are pleased that journeys of all different lengths have been recorded. Both short and long journeys are valuable for understanding what is happening to insects at a national scale, but shorter journeys are particularly useful for understanding insect numbers at local scales such as within counties.

During 2023 a new Bugs Matter citizen scientist recorded an impressive 203 journeys, contributing valuable data to the survey.  Participants in England continue to complete and record the greatest number of journeys, particularly in the South East (1523 journeys), East Anglia (1159 journeys) and the South West (706 journeys).

Andrew Whitehouse from Buglife said: “We are really pleased that so many people have taken part in Bugs Matter this year.  With more data we can improve our understanding of the health of insect populations across the whole of the UK.  Thank you to everyone who got involved and contributed to this vital citizen science survey”

Dr Lawrence Ball from Kent Wildlife Trust said: “The ongoing commitment of citizen scientists to the Bugs Matter survey, means we have recorded more data in 2023 than in any previous year. Insects are critical to the survival of our planet as we know it – a world without them is a shocking thought indeed. This why Bugs Matter is so important – it provides a very efficient method to monitor insect populations across huge areas. Thank you to everyone who took part in the survey in 2023, and I hope you continue to contribute to this vital dataset into the future!”

Following on from the shocking results of Bugs Matter 2022, which suggested a 64% decline in the number of insects sampled on vehicle number plates across the UK in less than 20 years, Bugs Matter 2023 data is now being crunched.

The full results will be published in December 2023, after comprehensive analysis of the data has taken place.

The “top splatters” of all time are from the following five locations:

  • 203 journeys: Powys, Wales
  • 186 journeys: Norwich, Norfolk
  • 117 journeys: Monmouthshire, Wales
  • 108 journeys: Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
  • 108 journeys: Tonbridge, Kent