Flying insect numbers have fallen 60% since 2004

Dramatic decline in winged insects threatens food supply and ecosystem

A survey of bug splats on registration plates reveals that the number of flying insects in Great Britain has dramatically fallen by nearly 60% in fewer than two decades.

Members of the public were asked to document the number of flying bugs that were squashed on their number plates in 2019 and 2021 for the Bugs Matter survey, which was led by Buglife and the Kent Wildlife Trust.

The results were then compared with an RSPB survey from 2004, which showed a 59% fall in the number of winged insects, such as aphids, flies, moths, flying beetles and bees, on number plates between 2004 and 2021.

Bugs are a vital part of our environment and they all perform crucial jobs such as pollination and control of other pests that can harm our crops. A threat to insects is a threat to our ecosystem and food supply.

England reported the largest fall in flying insects, with a decline of 65%, while Wales has lost 55% and Scotland 28% since 2004. It is not clear exactly why the drop in numbers was much lower in Scotland but Buglife Chief Executive Matt Shardlow said that the factors known to harm insects, such as light pollution, climate change and pesticides, were less intense in Scotland.

Matt Shardlow expressed concern about the decline in flying insects. He said: “This vital study suggests that the number of flying insects is declining by an average of 34% per decade. This is terrifying.”

“We cannot put off action any longer, for the health and wellbeing of future generations this demands a political and a societal response. It is essential that we halt biodiversity decline now.”

Director of the Kent Wildlife Trust Paul Hadaway said: “These declines are happening at an alarming rate and without concerted action to address them, we face a stark future.”

“Insects and pollinators are fundamental to the health of our environment and rural economies. We need action for all our wildlife now by creating more and bigger areas of habitats, providing corridors through the landscape for wildlife and allowing nature space to recover.”


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“This vital study suggests that the number of flying insects is declining by an average of 34% per decade. This is terrifying.” Matt Shardlow, Buglife Chief Executive


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