Why are we seeing fewer insects on windshields

(ORDO NEWS) — If you’ve driven a car over the past few decades, you may have noticed that unlucky flies, moths, and bugs don’t smear on your windshield as often as they used to.

You may even be pleased that your car has become cleaner. But the absence of bugs on the road is no reason to rejoice. This trend is known as the “windshield phenomenon”, and its presence indicates a rapid decline in insect populations around the world.

It’s good when the car is clean, but there is a nuance.

Since the early 2000s, people have noticed fewer beetles on their windshields, but until the 2010s, there was little scientific evidence to support these observations. Some of the earliest data on the subject comes from the Krefeld Entomological Society, which consists mainly of amateur entomologists.

They first started tracking insect populations in nature reserves across Western Europe in the 1980s, and in 2013 they made a startling discovery.

Insect populations at one trapping site have dropped nearly 80 percent since they last checked it in 1989. When scientists returned to the issue the following year, the numbers had not recovered. Studies of more than a dozen additional locations showed that the trend was not limited to one area.

A 2019 survey by the Kent Wildlife Trust directly linked the so-called “insect apocalypse” to drivers noticing (or not noticing) them on their windshields.

They asked drivers in the British county of Kent to report the number of insects that ended up on their cars after 650 trips. They compared those numbers with results from a similar survey in 2004 and found that the average number of crashed insects was down by 50 percent.

Some believe that the windshield phenomenon is due to the more aerodynamic design of modern cars. To explain this, the Kent Wildlife Trust researchers found drivers with classic cars for their study. Their results show that the changes over the 15-year period were due to the environment and not to the design of the car.

Several factors have contributed to the dramatic decline in insect populations. They have been hit hard by numerous anthropogenic threats over the past century, including industrial agriculture, insecticide use, and climate change. The windshield phenomenon is one of the consequences of such a crisis that people can notice in their daily lives.

Other consequences of the insect apocalypse are much more serious. Insects don’t always get as much attention from conservationists as the charismatic megafauna, but they play a vital role in the world’s ecosystems.

Pollinating animals such as bees, moths, beetles and butterflies are responsible for pollinating over a third of the world’s food crops. Our windshields may look cleaner in the future with fewer insects, but so will our grocery stores.

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