Bees in the News

The BeeHolder, Autumn 2012

Defra has pledged that it will look into the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on bee health. The department announced this week it would conduct field trials into the use of these pesticides, but did not feel there was any urgent need for a change in legislation governing their use.

A Defra spokesman said “We take the issue of neonicotinoids seriously and have a rigorous system for testing and assessing pesticides before they are approved. We want to make sure we always have the latest knowledge and are carrying out additional research into them.”

Arguably, though, the “standard test “ is not picking up the problems with neonicotinoid pesticides. Essentially the accepted test is to put a whole lot of insects in a container with the recommended dose of the insecticide, shake it up and leave it a few days. Then to up the dose to eg. double the dose, and if the insects are still alive the pesticide is deemed OK for that particular insect. When the test is done this way all is OK, However in the field it is possible to do the test another way. Catch the bees on the flowers they are visiting, give them a dose of the insecticide and count how many make it back to the hive. With neonicotinoid pesticides less than 50% make it back to the hives. This attrition rate is unsustainable to a colony.

Friends of the Earth slammed Defra's stance. The charity's nature campaigner Paul de Zylva said “The Government's failure to act on neonicotinoid pesticides is astonishing. There is still a massive question mark over the impact of these chemicals in declining bee populations. It's clear the Government has little idea of the damaging impact these pesticides have on bees and other pollinators – pesticide company profits must not be put ahead of their well-being.”

SkepMichelle Boudin
(adapted from Farmers Guardian, Sep 21st 2012)