Billions of bugs wiped out on Dutch roads

AMSTERDAM Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:33pm EDT

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch motorists kill about 133 billion insects a month, splattering bugs on their vehicles and eliminating important members of the food chain, according to a study released this week.

Biologists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands enlisted the help of 250 drivers for a "splash teller" study. Each motorist had to wipe his or her car license plate clean then tot up the bug body count at the end of their drive.

"They are by far the richest species groups in all countries, and therefore play an essential role in the food chain," biologist Arnold van Vliet, one of a team working on the project, told Reuters.

"Many birds such as swallows, who hunt for insects, depend on insect density. If insect numbers are low they inevitably face severe problems finding food for their young," he said.

Insects are not only important pollinators of commercial and wild plants, but also form a crucial part of the diet of many animals including birds and bats.

The study showed the most dangerous parts of the country for a flying insect are the coastal provinces of Zeeland, Friesland and Groningen -- which Van Vliet said was possibly a reflection of the fact the human inhabitants are more likely to drive longer distances in these less densely populated areas.

Van Vliet said the scientific study was inspired by a similar project in the United Kingdom, carried out in 2004.

(Reporting by Jennifer Martin; Editing by Sara Webb)

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