Virtual ‘splatometer’ makes it even easier for citizen scientists to contribute to Bugs Matter survey in Scotland

Thursday 1st June 2023

• The Bugs Matter survey involves citizen scientists counting the number of insect splats on their number plates after a journey.
• New virtual ‘splatometer’ makes counting and photographing splats even easier and improves the sustainability of the survey.
• The 2022 survey revealed a dramatic reduction in insect splats of 40% in Scotland in under two decades.

Conservation charities Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife have launched the Bugs Matter 2023 Survey, introducing a new virtual ‘splatometer’ to measure insect splats on number plates as a measure of insect abundance. This ground-breaking initiative aims to measure the alarming decline in insect numbers repeatedly reported across the United Kingdom and the globe.

Last year’s results from the Bugs Matter citizen science survey revealed a dramatic decrease in insect populations. In Scotland, the survey found a staggering decrease of 40% in the number of insects splatted on vehicle number plates between 2004 and 2022. The annual Bugs Matter survey is valuable tool to better understand trends in insect abundance up and down the UK.

The important question to answer now is whether the results from the past two years of the survey indicate a long-term trend. The Bugs Matter team needs more and more citizen scientists to sign up and take part every year to provide a long-term, reliable dataset. The results of Bugs Matter will better inform effective conservation strategies to halt and reverse declining insect trends across the country.

One key development for this year’s survey is the discontinuation of paper ‘splatometers’ – grids used to record the number of insects splatted on number plates as a measure of insect abundance. Previously, participants had to wait for their splatometer to be posted, causing potential delays in data collection. Now, with the switch to a virtual template, individuals can instantly and seamlessly take part in the survey. This improvement not only increases the survey’s efficiency, but also promotes sustainability through reduced printing, paper and postage.

The Bugs Matter survey encourages citizen scientists in Scotland to demonstrate how insect numbers are faring. By participating, anyone can contribute to a nationwide effort to monitor insect populations in order to develop targeted conservation measures.

Dr Lawrence Ball at Kent Wildlife Trust says, “By joining the Bugs Matter survey, every participant becomes a vital contributor to our understanding of insect population numbers in Scotland. The survey enables us to collect data efficiently and sustainably, thanks to the elimination of paper splatometers this year. Together, we can make a difference in preserving populations of our valuable insects.”

Andrew Whitehouse at Buglife says: “We hope that this year even more people will get involved in the Bugs Matter survey, and help us to understand more about the health of Scotland’s insect populations. It’s easy to take part: just download the app, and after your car journey record how many insect splats are on your number plate. Let’s make every car journey count!

The Bugs Matter survey is running from June 1 to August 31 2023, aligning with peak insect activity. Participants can visit the Bugs Matter website (Bugs Matter – Buglife) to download the free app for iOS and Android.