Earlier this month the Lords debated the decline in honey bees in 2012 and measures to combat the prevalence of disease in bee colonies. Here Baroness Thomas of Winchester explains why it matters – and how urgent action is needed
The debate on bee health on January 10 was timely because bees are dying in great numbers in much of the world, including the UK, and the big question is why?
No-one should have to ask whether it matters. It matters because all types of bee are extremely efficient pollinators, and pollination is worth millions of pounds to the UK economy. It is thought that the main reasons for the decline in bee health are pests and diseases, the loss of habitat, and adverse weather conditions. But increasingly a group of widely used systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids are being blamed for weakening the bees’ immune system through sub-lethal effects – i.e. they do not kill the bee but alter its physiology or behaviour.
Many bee enthusiasts are quite convinced about the harm these insecticides are causing, and are calling for them to be banned altogether. Four EU countries have now restricted the use of some of these neonics, and last Wednesday, the European Food Safety Authority said that the risk to bees from pollen and nectar of treated plants was ‘high’. They concluded that they should only be used on crops not attractive to bees. Other scientists are more cautious, but all want far more research done – and as a matter of urgency.
In the meantime, we should all plant nectar-rich flowers, shrubs and trees in our gardens or window-boxes and encourage others to do the same.
Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.