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Chewing Grass

Where have all the insects gone - The Bug Splat Phenomenonon

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When I was a kid we would head off down south using the M6 and M5 and by the time we reached Somerset the windscreen was opaque with dead bugs and their splattered guts.

Now I can drive all summer and will probably splatt about a dozen. In fact the last year I had any significant splatter was probably 2013.

Now it is being noticed and agricultural pesticides are being fingered. 

“This is part of the wholesale loss of small animals in recent decades.  The public know about bees and butterflies, but these are just the tips of the iceberg.  Moths, hoverflies, wasps, beetles and many other groups are now sparse where once they were abundant.”

Another factor may be the increased levels of abandoned land both urban and rural that is also turning to birch scrub doid of grass and flowers as verges and hedges go uncut and unmanaged.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/08/26/windscreen-phenomenon-car-no-longer-covered-dead-insects/

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I was going to propose that the drag coefficient of cars built today was one factor, but it still doesn't account for the lack of moths flying around. When I was a kid, you could guarantee that if a window was left open then a fucking moth would fly in. Not so today.

But then it can't be cars killing moths because they only fly around a night (less traffic).

Pesticides it is then.

 

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It could just be so many more cars, big 4x4s and all the lorries on the roads continually sweeping them up so you're going into space already cleared of insects far more than you would have been twenty or more years ago.

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11 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

It could just be so many more cars, big 4x4s and all the lorries on the roads continually sweeping them up so you're going into space already cleared of insects far more than you would have been twenty or more years ago.

Depends where you live, I spend a lot of time travelling at speed on a bike down country lanes miles from any big roads and have not swallowed any this year and barely needed my goggles on!

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14 minutes ago, Chewing Grass said:

Depends where you live, I spend a lot of time travelling at speed on a bike down country lanes miles from any big roads and have not swallowed any this year and barely needed my goggles on!

It was a suggestion based upon my driving which tends to be fast commuter routes (50 - 70) with vans and lorries so any insects don't have long to repopulate the airspace.

There could well be less in general.

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4 hours ago, Bkkandrew said:

2013 started the decline, eh?

Shuffles off to check when the higher frequencies of 3G and 4G began rolling out in the U.K. 

Insects can't hear 1800 MHz radio waves. I reckon it's your lot eating them all fried on sticks.

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18 minutes ago, MrPin said:

Insects can't hear 1800 MHz radio waves. I reckon it's your lot eating them all fried on sticks.

It's possible. I will check down the market.

Before I do, can I ask what frequency you conversed with the insects in to determine they were not on the 1800MHz wavelength?

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Inside the walls of this woman's house?

Quote

When Valerie Cappell and her family decided to build their dream home, they determined “to do the right thing” by making it as ecologically-friendly as possible.

But the “Grand Designs-esq” adventure turned into a nightmare when she discovered the highly sustainable wool she had chosen to insulate the four-bed property was hosting a moth infestation of “biblical proportions”.

I thought you all might like this. :Jumping:

Quote

“We’re not green activists but we wanted to do the right thing," she said.

“We went for an adventurous design, very airy with lots of space, and we wanted it to be as ecologically friendly as possible.”

It is, if you're a moth.

Quote

However, the cost of the ruined wool, as well as removing and replacing it is likely to come to nearly £10,000, negating any savings gained from low energy bills.

Source :- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/01/grand-designs-dream-home-ruined-biblical-plague-moths/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

 

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10 minutes ago, XswampyX said:

Inside the walls of this woman's house?

I thought you all might like this. :Jumping:

It is, if you're a moth.

Source :-  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/01/grand-designs-dream-home-ruined-biblical-plague-moths

Some of the comments are hilarious!

"Virtue signalling comes at a cost!"

Edited by OurDayWillCome

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Back to the main topic: by coincidence, a couple of months ago I was chatting with an entomologist (in France). I asked him about this reduction in the number of bugs, and he was very affirmative that, yes, insect numbers are way down, no one really knows why, and it's a potential disaster as insects are the start of many food chains - so lots of other animals might be endangered too.

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I've noticed this too. The front of my caravan had hardly any bug-splats on it this year after about 1500 miles. Going on a caravanning holiday 40 years ago as a child our caravan was covered in them after 200 miles.

I'm sure improved aero dynamics are partly the reason, also I towed the caravan with my van with bikes on the roof so that would perhaps shield the caravan more. However I would expect the bikes to be absolutely covered with insects but they weren't. Improved aerodynamics also wouldn't explain the lack of bug-splats on the number plate of the car either.

 

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1 hour ago, DeepLurker said:

Back to the main topic: by coincidence, a couple of months ago I was chatting with an entomologist (in France). I asked him about this reduction in the number of bugs, and he was very affirmative that, yes, insect numbers are way down, no one really knows why, and it's a potential disaster as insects are the start of many food chains - so lots of other animals might be endangered too.

 

56 minutes ago, the gardener said:

I've noticed this too. The front of my caravan had hardly any bug-splats on it this year after about 1500 miles. Going on a caravanning holiday 40 years ago as a child our caravan was covered in them after 200 miles.

I'm sure improved aero dynamics are partly the reason, also I towed the caravan with my van with bikes on the roof so that would perhaps shield the caravan more. However I would expect the bikes to be absolutely covered with insects but they weren't. Improved aerodynamics also wouldn't explain the lack of bug-splats on the number plate of the car either.

 

Several things could be at play, but I would be very surprised if there isn't a temperature effect. Northern hemisphere temperatures have warmed over the last 50 years and this is likely to have influenced insect phenology, which is when in the year an insect occurs.

Insects are 'cold blooded' and so the time they appear is influenced strongly, by temperature. It may well be that insects are occurring earlier in the year so that their peak abundance has shifted forwards, whereas our holiday period on the roads (when we tend to drive more through densely insect populated areas) has not shifted in a similar way.

Phenological changes can have significant consequences for the food chain by causing a mismatch between predators and prey. There could well be a mismatch between insects and cars. If someone is not looking at this already, there is an interesting research paper in that. I'm off to do some research...Although I'm sure it is being done and I'm confident that a phenological shift must have been observed. Insects just aren't my field.

Back to doing something else :)

Quote

As expected from the shift in temperature, most phenological events have advanced in spring and been delayed in autumn

http://www.pnas.org/content/110/33/13434.full

Edited by Hopeful

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7 hours ago, DeepLurker said:

Back to the main topic: by coincidence, a couple of months ago I was chatting with an entomologist (in France). I asked him about this reduction in the number of bugs, and he was very affirmative that, yes, insect numbers are way down, no one really knows why, and it's a potential disaster as insects are the start of many food chains - so lots of other animals might be endangered too.

The shit weather won't help.

The local bats have moved/died/been evicted. Either that or there's not enough insects for them to eat and they've buggered off because of that.

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13 minutes ago, sarahbell said:

The shit weather won't help.

The local bats have moved/died/been evicted. Either that or there's not enough insects for them to eat and they've buggered off because of that.

Annual variability, superimposed on a longer term trend

But with a phenological shift it is important to consider the weather when the insects are at peak abundance, rather than the weather when you think they should be at peak abundance based upon past knowledge.

 

1 minute ago, Wahoo said:

I've been thinking the same each year...less and less insects. 

They've been hammered by pesticides.  Bad news for us all eventually.  

 

 

The biggest influence on bug splats will be a phenological shift in peak abundance, in my opinion. Although other factors like insecticides and farming practices may bring about a decline in insects too. Phenological shifts are one of best documented and immediate biological consequences of increasing northern hemisphere temperatures in the sea and on land.

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Just now, Hopeful said:

Annual variability, superimposed on a longer term trend

But with a phenological shift it is important to consider the weather when the insects are at peak abundance, rather than the weather when you think they should be at peak abundance based upon past knowledge.

I keep bees; I'm more sensitive to the variations in what food is out there for them. 
The wet windy weather destroys pollen supplies and nectar. The hot dry weather destroys nectar production. 
This year hasn't really got going in terms of sensible weather. 
Spring wasn't as bad as last year though. 

We've not had anywhere near as many bumblebee calls as we had last year. 
 

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19 minutes ago, sarahbell said:

I keep bees; I'm more sensitive to the variations in what food is out there for them. 
The wet windy weather destroys pollen supplies and nectar. The hot dry weather destroys nectar production. 
This year hasn't really got going in terms of sensible weather. 
Spring wasn't as bad as last year though. 

We've not had anywhere near as many bumblebee calls as we had last year. 
 

I know you do, I wish I did.

I agree with 'this year's observations', but you are describing annual variation, which will be superimposed on a longer term trend, and the longer term trend is warmer annual temperatures which will advance biological events in spring and delay events in autumn for organisms influenced simply by temperature; this temperature trend does not affect the phenology of organisms influenced by day-length as photoperiod is unchanging, and so the response of organisms that are influenced by day-length and temperature is more complex.

While other factors in addition to temperature may alter insect numbers annually too (pesticides farming practices) and have a long term trend they are unlikely to affect phenology. I'd confidently say that the long-term warming trend will affect long-term changes in bug splats by altering phenology. The peak abundance of many invertebrates now occurs one month earlier in the year than 60 years ago. I won't link my work (not on insects) but the paper I linked above is an excellent article and an enjoyable read, and the principles apply even though the study is not in our exact neck of the woods.

Edited by Hopeful

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