In terms of the weather, with the exception of a spectacular electrical storm on the 5th May, spring has felt a little nondescript this year. Not that cold, not overly warm (the mercury has not hit 20 degrees yet), and a bit damp. However, I am going to stick my neck out and say that locally the weather appears to have been good, so far, for our flying insects.

Flying insect are in trouble. Buglife, an organisation devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates, found that in the UK there has been a 64% decline in flying insect numbers between 2004 and 2022. While flying insects can be a pain at times, dirtying our vehicles and eager to share our picnics, it is worth remembering that they are essential to our ecosystem as, for example, food for our birds, pollinators for our crops, and as nutrient recyclers. It is not just bees that do our pollinating and it can be easy to overlook the other insect pollinators. Without midges there is no chocolate!

Dandelions seem to have more insects on them this year, and there are more dandelions too as less are needlessly mown. Strolling through local fields St. Mark’s Fly are in abundance. Named as their emergence falls around the 25th April when the Feast of St. Mark is observed. These flies can be quite large, black, as shiny as like split obsidian and are gangly in demeanour. In flight their legs hang down like those of an osprey grappling with on oversized fish snatched surreptitiously from a lake.

On social media I noticed a post where someone was surprised by the number of insects splattered on their car number plate. Checking the number plate on my own vehicle, I concur, there are quite a few insects, albeit far from the numbers of twenty years ago when there was a need to wash the car windscreen and lights after any long journey. Having met for the evening at a country pub, motorcyclists would queue to wash their visors before their return journey.

Over the summer months, we can all help estimate the number of flying insects by taking part in the citizen science project ‘Bugs Matter’. It involves counting and recording the number of insects who came to a sticky end on our number plates during a journey. A splatometer, that standardises the area, and instructions can be downloaded from the buglife website. Time flies by while you are counting the splats, hoping this might be the year to buck the downward trend.