Number of BUG SPLATS on car number plates plunges by 64% in 20 years

A project asking people to count squashed bugs on their car number plates suggests flying insects have declined by nearly two-thirds in less than 20 years.

The citizen science Bugs Matter survey, led by conservation charities Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife, found a 64% decline in insect numbers splatted on vehicle number plates between 2004 and 2022 across the UK.

The situation had worsened even since last year, when the survey recorded a nearly 59% drop in numbers since 2004.

Experts said it was not clear what proportion of the five percentage point drop between 2021 and 2022 was due to long-term trends or the result of record summer temperatures.

The now-annual survey asked members of the public to record the number of flying insects squashed on their number plate, and compared it to data from an RSPB analysis in 2004 which used the same methods.

Before making an essential journey in their vehicle, drivers cleaned their number plate, recorded the route on their mobile phone, and afterwards counted the insects squashed on it using a 'splatometer grid' supplied as part of the survey.

They then submitted a photo and count details via the Bugs Matter app and the data was converted into 'splats per mile' to make it comparable between journeys.

The data gathered from the scheme revealed ongoing declines in insect splats in England, with a 68% reduction compared to 2004, seven percentage points worse than the 61% fall in 2021.

Wales saw a 75% decrease in bug splat numbers this summer, significantly worse than 2021's 55% fall, compared to 2004 figures.

But Scotland saw something of a reversal in the trend, with a 40% decrease when compared to 2004, better than the figures for 2021 where there was a 49% fall on 2004 numbers.