The windshield phenomenon (or windscreen phenomenon) is the observation that recently fewer dead insects accumulate on the windshields of people's cars. It has been attributed to a global decline in insect populations caused by human activity.
As early as the 2000s it became a commonplace observation among drivers that windscreens after a long drive no longer had to be cleaned of a myriad of insects. In 2016, Canadian naturalist John Acorn noted that the phenomenon had recently become a meme but questioned whether it is "reasonable to assume that windshields can tell us something about the overall numbers of insects" and also that "humans are notoriously bad at detecting trends". The windshield phenomenon was widely discussed in 2017 after major publications and media covered the topic of reductions in insect abundance over the last few decades. Entomologists stated that they had noticed that they no longer had to frequently clean their windshields.
A 20-year study measured the number of dead insects on car windscreens on two stretches of road in Denmark from 1997 until 2017. Adjusted for variables such a time of day, date, temperature, and wind speed, the research found an 80% decline in insects. A parallel study using sweep nets and sticky plates in the same area positively correlated with the reduction of insects killed by car windscreens.
In 2004 the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) asked 40,000 motorists in the United Kingdom to attach a sticky PVC film to their number plate. One insect collided with the plate for every 8 kilometres (5 mi) driven. No historical data was available for comparison in the UK. A follow-up study by Kent Wildlife Trust in 2019 used the same methodology as the RSPB survey and resulted in 50% fewer impacts. The research also found that modern cars, with a more aerodynamic body shape, killed more insects than boxier vintage cars up to 70 years old.
- McCarthy, Michael (21 October 2017). "A giant insect ecosystem is collapsing due to humans. It's a catastrophe". The Guardian.
- McCarthy, Michael (2003-06-30). "Scientists set out to discover if insects are disappearing from Britain". The Independent. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- WalesOnline (2004-09-01). "Car 'splatometer' test shows bugs flying towards extinction". walesonline. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- "'Splatometer' to count bug life". BBC News. 2003-06-30. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- Acorn, John (2016). "The Windshield Anecdote". American Entomologist. 62 (4): 262–264. doi:10.1093/ae/tmw086.
- "What is the 'windshield phenomenon'?". Mother Nature Network. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- Vogel, Gretchen; 10 May 2017; Am, 9:00 (2017-05-09). "Where have all the insects gone?". Science | AAAS. Retrieved 2019-02-01.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
- Knapton, Sarah (2017-08-26). "'The windscreen phenomenon' - why your car is no longer covered in dead insects". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- "What happened to all the bugs? Scientists search for answers". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2018-09-20. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- Anders Pape Møller (June 2019). "Parallel declines in abundance of insects and insectivorous birds in Denmark over 22 years". Ecology and Evolution. 9 (11): 6581–6587.
- "Scarce insects duck UK splat test". BBC News. 2004-09-01. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- McCarthy, Michael (2004-09-02). "40,000 'splatometers' can't be wrong: insect population is in decline". The Independent. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
- Damian Carrington (12 February 2020). "Car 'splatometer' tests reveal huge decline in number of insects". The Guardian.