Declining insect numbers in Kent ‘extremely concerning’

Decline in insects Photo kimgreenhalgh90

By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan

Insect numbers have been on a steep decline in Kent over the last 17 years.

A new study published by Kent Wildlife Trust has found that insect numbers have declined by 72% in the county between 2004 and 2021.

Insects, such as bees and butterflies, pollinate food crops and are critical components of ecosystems. But, their numbers are on the decline.

Kent county councillor Mike Baldock, of Swale Independents Alliance, described the situation as “startling” during a debate in County Hall, Maidstone, on Thursday (May 19).

He said: “This is the sort of evidence that indicates a tipping point, and, if not acted on could lead to the extermination of our race.

“It needs to be taken more seriously by government and people at the moment.”

Kent Wildlife Trust’s findings were based on counting the number of insects squashed on vehicle number plates, such as cars and HGVs.

Around 8,300 samples were carried out in 2004 and 2021, covering 43,000 miles. The results were published on May 5.

It was found that 72% of insect numbers have declined in Kent between 2004 and 2021, which is higher than the UK’s national rate of 59% over the same period.

Kent County Council’s (KCC) environment and transport committee reviewed the worrying insect decline last week.

Cllr Sean Holden (Con), KCC’s environment committee, described the number reduction as “extremely concerning”.

He said: “It is also well and good to discover the problem, but the question is what to do about it.”

Herne Bay county councillor Dan Watkins (Con) said more projects should be introduced to expand biodiversity in Kent, citing the reintroduction of bison at Canterbury’s countryside in Blean Woods.

He said: “That is an example of a project that will encourage biodiversity and help to rebuild the stocks of insects.

“That is only one project, but, we need to be doing hundreds of projects like that across the county over the next couple of decades to address the nature crisis.”

Other suggested actions include using fertiliser to reduce CO2 emissions and volunteering to help with local charities, such as Wildlife Trust or Buglife, to restore wildlife sites.

Meanwhile, KCC has launched a bee pollinator action plan to encourage local communities and Kent residents to conserve habitats and protect species.

KCC’s cabinet member for environment, Cllr Susan Carey (Con), described the revelations as “shocking” during last week’s debate.

She said: “The level the insects have dropped does seem startling and we do need to respond to it.”


  1. Talk about finally getting the message. Better late than never, except it may already be too late!
    Anyway, I think this empowers us to demand that any and all weed spraying of any type in urban areas STOP!
    Where absolutely necessary, physical removal of weeds, even by the community, may have to become another new normal.

    • I agree Peter, but TDC and KCC dont seem to care. They talk the talk but that is all. During No mow May KCC said it was not possible to stop mowing as this would mean a significant increase in resources needed for subsequent cuts in June. TDC are responsible for tree preservation orders but when an application is made to remove TPO trees as they throw shade onto private gardens they get given the go ahead to chop them down. Its no wonder insects are in decline when their habitat is decimated.

  2. One of the jobs of a proper gardener is to hand weed.Those who use sprays are light weights,part timers and lazy

  3. Hardly surprising when we are building houses everywhere. Nowhere is safe from the developers. Unfortunately money will always come first for greedy developers. Our wild meadows are virtually gone, our farmland is being decimated by house builders, gardens are being concreted over and our green spaces are also being built on. SSI sites are now no longer safe from house building. It’s disgusting what we are doing to our wildlife.

    • Totally agree. Fields being destroyed for housing all over Kent. So much for the Garden of England!
      KCC should not approve any more housing development applications if they really do care about this terrible loss of insect species

  4. Good job they haven’t built on Mansion as yet, there’s an abundance of insects on that huge grassed area.

  5. I installed an Insect House in our garden a few weeks back to encourage crawlies (though I’m thinking of contacting Cooke & Co., as nothing seems to have moved in yet!).

    • Same here Peter, my butterfly garden hasn’t seemed good enough to attract them, except for one Cabbage White a little while ago! Plenty of Blue Bottles though, although I think thats due to a neighbours dogs!

  6. In reply to Warwick’s comment! It is not KCC that gives approval to housing developments, it is your Borough Councils that do, and I might add, ignore KCC’s advice or recommendations.

  7. Saw a contractor sitting on a machine spraying pavements this morning (26/5/22) at the top end of Boundary Road, Ramsgate, why? Surely this would be a good job for offenders doing Community Payback or whatever its called, to weed by hand?

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