UK flying insects decline by 60% in under two decades

A new citizen-science survey finds the abundance of insect species in Britain has fallen by more than half in just 17 years. 

With restoring and repairing UK biodiversity among several major commitments made by government to tackle climate change, a new study should act as a stark warning that time is running out to save many of the most endangered forms of life in the country. 

A citizen-science survey led by Kent Wildlife Trust and Buglife, Bugs Matter 2021 Full Technical Report, has revealed a drastic decline in the abundance of flying insects, with numbers plummeting by 59% in just 17 years. The research used data recorded since 2004, and supports the findings of comparable projects across the world. 

From the four nations, England saw the biggest drop, with 65% fewer winged insects last year than at the start of the study. In Wales, the number stands at 55%, with Scotland recording the smallest fall, at 28%. Figures for Northern Ireland were unavailable as too few studies of this kind had been carried out.

‘This vital study suggests that the number of flying insects is declining by an average of 34% per decade, this is terrifying,’ said Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive Officer at Buglife. ‘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.’

The results are significant for a number of reasons. Many insects are important pollinators, and play a vital role in maintaining crop levels both people and animals rely on for food. They are also considered a key sign of a healthy environment as a key part of wider ecosystems, with falling numbers indicative of an area where nature is considered to be ‘in trouble’. 

The Bugs Matter survey also looks at areas where species abundance is in recovery, and as such can offer useful indications of the type of conservation projects that are having a positive impact. 2022’s survey will run from 1st June to 31st August, with experts and members of the public encouraged to take part via dedicated apps built for both Apple iOS and Android mobile operating systems. 

Image credit: Kent Wildlife Trust / Buglife



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