Since June, citizen scientists across the UK have been taking part in Bugs Matter, the annual insect survey led by Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife. With ten days left to go until data analysts can begin dissecting this year’s data to understand insect population trends, South East and East England are leading in the number of surveys completed, while North East England and London trail behind.
So far, the overall number of journeys completed by participants in this vital citizen science project has well surpassed numbers last year, with a total of 4,750 surveys submitted compared to 4,139 at this point in the survey in 2021. Citizen scientists have been encouraged to count the number of insect splats on their vehicle number plates during their journeys this summer as a measure of how insect population numbers are faring across the UK.
The top regions of the UK with the most journeys completed are the South East with 1,092 journeys, East England with 894 journeys and Wales with 578 journeys. London and North East England have completed the fewest journeys over this year’s survey period, with 39 and 85 journeys, respectively.
The full ranked list of journeys per UK region is as follows:
- South East England: 1,092
- East England: 894
- Wales: 578
- South West England: 469
- Scotland: 343
- West Midlands: 315
- Yorkshire and The Humber: 303
- North West England: 275
- East Midlands: 267
- Northern Ireland: 88
- North East England: 85
- London: 39
Andrew Whitehouse, Head of Operations at Buglife, said: “Thank you to everyone who has taken part in Bugs Matter this year. The data that has been collected is absolutely essential in understanding how our insect populations are faring – particularly when we experience extreme weather events like this summer’s droughts. Please do keep using your splatometers and sending us your results over the next couple of weeks.”
Dr Lawrence Ball, Conservation GIS and Data Officer at Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “The data from the Bugs Matter survey is so important – there are few approaches that allow us to collect such large quantities of critically important data on insects across such large areas of the UK. We’re delighted that so many people recognize the importance of this citizen science project and are continuing to submit data from their journeys. With a larger dataset, we can obtain more accurate predictions of change in insect abundance, so every journey counts! Thank you to all the citizen scientists who have taken part and we hope participation in the survey continues to grow in the coming years.”
Bugs Matter is one of the UK’s few citizen science surveys of insect abundance that generates this important data. To build an accurate picture of how national insect numbers are faring, scientists need as many surveys as possible to be completed. All journeys generate valuable data to understand national insect trends, be it a 5-minute trip to the shops or a long-distance road trip. Last year, the Bugs Matter survey found that the number of flying insects declined by 60% across the UK between 2004 and 2021.
The 2022 survey period concludes on 31 August. For those who haven’t had the chance to contribute to this crucial dataset, there is still time. Smartphone users can download the free Bugs Matter app and print off their own “splatometer” at home here. Taking part is quick and easy. The concept is simple; before making a journey in a vehicle, clean the number plate, and tap “Begin Journey” in the app. On reaching the destination, count the bugs squashed on a section of the number plate by holding the “splatometer” grid against the number plate. Take a photo and submit the information via the app.
– iOS App Store: Bugs Matter on the App Store (apple.com)
– Google Play: Bugs Matter – Apps on Google Play
For those who have the app and have yet to complete a journey and log their insect splats, it’s not too late! The data collected from the Bugs Matter surveys informs a growing requirement for conservation research, policy and practice targeted at insect populations in the UK and our environment as a whole.