Have you noticed you’re scrubbing fewer squashed flies off your windscreen of late?
You’re not alone. Drivers across the UK have been reporting an absence of flies, gnats, wasps and moths on their vehicles – prompting fears from scientists that such insects could be in decline.
And this is no new phenomenon, with experts noting a decline in insect numbers over the past few decades.
Drivers across the UK have been reporting less flies, gnats, wasps and moths than usual on their vehicles – prompting fears from scientists that such insects could be in decline
‘Where have all the insects gone?’ wondered Michael Groom of Teffont Evias in Wiltshire in a letter to the Telegraph newspaper. ‘My windscreen remains clear whatever the speed.’
According to data collected by the Krefeld Entomological Society, a German amateur group of entomologists that monitored more than 100 nature reserves in western Europe since the Eighties, insect levels have fallen sharply in recent years.
In 2013, the group returned to one of its trapping sites from 1989 and found the number of insects had dropped by nearly 80 per cent, Science Mag reported. Analysis of further samples confirmed the phenomenon.
So why should we be worried?
According to data collected by the Krefeld Entomological Society, a German amateur group of entomologists that monitored more than 100 nature reserves in western Europe since the Eighties, insect levels have fallen sharply in recent years
HOW THE BEES ARE AFFECTED BY PESTICIDES
Queen bees emerge from hibernation in spring to fly off to continue the bees’ life cycle in a new colony.
An agricultural dose of thiamethoxam reduces their ability to do this, and boosts the risk of population collapse.
When a queen is going to set up a colony, she will secrete wax and form it into containers for nectar and pollen.
She will then begin to lay her eggs and sit on them like a bird – these spring queens represent the next generation of bumblebee colonies.
But exactly how thiamethoxam blocks the queens’ reproductive cycle is not yet known.
According to Dave Goulson, an ecologist at the University of Sussex who is working with Krefeld Entomological Society, other species are at risk, too.
‘If you’re an insect-eating bird living in that area, four-fifths of your food is gone in the last quarter-century, which is staggering,’ he told the magazine earlier this year.
‘One almost hopes that it’s not representative – that it’s some strange artifact.’
The so-called ‘windscreen phenomenon’ has been blamed by experts on the increasing use of pesticides over the past 50 years.
And it’s not just the kind of insect you find on your windscreen that is affected.
Since 2006, bee colonies have declined by about a third due to the chemicals, as well as the loss of flower-rich grassland.
This was backed up by Matt Shadlow, chief executive of the insect charity Buglife, who told the paper: ‘Yes, indeed this is a well-recognised phenomenon.
‘Just today we had a member of the public phone up and say, unprompted, that “the front of my car is now devoid of insects, and there are virtually no moths in the headlights.”‘