New bug splatter app to reveal more about insect populations - Buglife

Car drivers and passengers asked to count bugs squashed on car registration plates after a journey this summer

An innovative app to survey insect populations is launched today by Kent, Gwent, Essex and Somerset Wildlife Trusts with insect charity Buglife. The user-friendly Bugs Matter app brings meaningful citizen science to the pockets of thousands and will help wildlife organisations better understand how our insect populations are faring – by asking people to count the number of “bug splats” on their car number plates.

bugs matter grid over a car number plate
Bugs Matter splotometer grid (image: Buglife)

Smartphone users can take part by downloading the free Bugs Matter app from their app stores. The concept is simple; before making an essential journey in a vehicle, clean the number plate. When you reach your destination count the bugs squashed on a section of the number plate by placing a ‘splatometer’ grid against the plate, which you will get when you download the app. A photo and details are then submitted. You don’t even need to be the driver of the vehicle you are travelling in (though you will need their permission).

The survey is based on the ‘windscreen phenomenon’, a term given to the observation that people tend to find fewer insects squashed on the windscreens of their cars compared to several decades ago.

There is growing evidence of insect decline on a global scale, caused by habitat loss and pesticides. The consequences are potentially catastrophic for the integrity of our ecosystems, the future survival of other wildlife and the pollination of crops.

However, evidence is still lacking or only partly understood for many insect groups and species. Gathering evidence to show the need for urgent action is the first step in making a difference. In the UK only butterflies and moths have been monitored in enough detail to allow trends to be fully understood.

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Posted On: 28/05/2021

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