Proctecting pollinators: pesticides and bee health

Friday 26th April 2013

bee in action photo by Roseann DitchfieldSave the bees

Bees and other pollinating insects are a vital part of our natural environment, they help hundreds of plant species to reproduce - including many food crops. Without bees farmers would face a bill of more than £1.8bn to pollinate crops by hand, undermining our food supply. Insect pollinators also form a vital part of the food chain for wildlife including birds, amphibians and reptiles. If numbers are dramatically reduced, a wide range of species and natural processes could be under threat.

Under threat from pesticides

Anything that reduces pollinator numbers will ultimately affect the health and function of entire ecosystems.

British bee numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years, affected by disease, chemicals and habitat loss. There is growing evidence that one particular group of pesticides - neonicotinoids are having a big impact on the health of our bees.

Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides routinely used in modern farming systems to help protect crops from sap-sucking insects such as aphids. However, there is a growing body of evidence that shows that neonicotinoid pesticides have a detrimental effect on insect pollinators such as bees.

All pollinators and insects feeding on nectar such as honey bees, bumble bees, hoverflies and butterflies are exposed to a small prolonged dose of the toxin when the flowers are in bloom. This is a problem because the toxin accumulates over time, causing permanent, irreversible damage and eventually death.

The Wildlife Trusts believe that until it can be categorically proven that neonicotinoids are not adversely impacting pollinator populations, and by extension ecosystem health, Government should adopt the precautionary principle and place a moratorium on their use on all outdoor crops.

March of the beekeepers on Westminster – Friday, 26 April 2013

This Friday (26 Apr), beekeepers and concerned members of the public will march in Westminster to pile pressure on Environment Secretary Owen Paterson MP to support a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides at an EU meeting on Monday (29 Apr). The Wildlife Trusts will be participating in the march - click here to find out more.

How you can help

Our gardens represent a vast Living Landscape; and with an estimated 16 million gardens in the UK, the way they are managed can make a big difference to wildlife, including pollinating insects. Visit our wildlife gardening pages to find out more about what you can do to help bees in your own garden.

You can also write to your MP and ask them to push to government to support the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides .

Tagged with: Wildlife gardening