Save the Bees
The UK’s butterflies, moths and other pollinating insects desperately need our help. In many places the habitats that butterflies and caterpillars depend on for food and shelter is under threat and disappearing fast.
The honeybee is a crucial pollinator of both crops and wild plants. Yet, throughout the world it is beset with difficulties and is in decline. Globalised intensive food production is a major factor behind this decline: mainstream farming and beekeeping treats the bee as a mechanical cog in the agro-industrial machine.
Bees play a crucial role in pollinating our food crops and wild plants, they really do make Britain bloom - we must do far more to reverse the decline of these previous pollinators and other insects. With overwhelming evidence on the harm neonicotinoid pesticides cause to our pollinators, it’s time the UK government supported a comprehensive ban on these bee-harming chemicals to keep them completely out of our countryside, parks and gardens forever.
So far I am managing well without neonicotinoids and I am constantly looking to improve my system further. Any pesticide can have unwanted impacts, but with sprays these can be minimised by following best practice, like only spraying if pest thresholds are exceeded. For me this is one of the advantages of moving away from seed treatments, where you have to make a decision even before the growing season starts.
Bees are incredibly important pollinators. Around 80% of all flowering plants are pollinated by insects, including butterflies and moths. Action taken to encourage pollinators such as bees, should thus be very beneficial to butterflies and moths, as well as other insects. Protecting pollinators is therefore a call to action for improving the countryside and urban areas for butterflies, moths and all insects.
Since the introduction of the ban on some uses of neonicotinoids in the EU there has not been any dramatic decrease in crop yield as predicted. But what we have seen is continuing evidence from research that the use of neonicotinoids poses an unacceptable risk to all pollinator species. It is vital that the ban on neonicotinoids is extended and strengthened when the decision is taken in 2017.
The evidence is resounding: wildflower loss and neonicotinoid pesticides have destroyed populations of wild bees. Restoring a network of wildflower meadows across a countryside that is free from bee harming agrotoxins will ensure a bright and buzzing future.
It’s clear that if we don’t act quickly to halt and reverse the decline in pollinator numbers, there could be severe consequences for the UK economy, including rising food prices and scarcity of some of our most valued food crops. In so many ways our lives will be diminished if our bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinators disappear. We need a precautionary approach to food protection that protects these vital species.
The ban on neonicotinoids is blamed for posing localised challenges to the oilseed rape sector, but the answer isn’t to bring back a pesticide that’s known to be harmful to wildlife, or to increase the use of other pesticides that bring their own problems. What farmers need is government, researchers and farming organisations to work together to promote more sustainable, wildlife-friendly ways of managing pests.
Bees and other pollinators are a vital part of our countryside, yet their numbers continue to decline in line with other wildlife (as seen in the 2016 State of Nature report). They face threats from several sources including habitat loss and pesticide use. Neonicotinoids remain a particular cause for concern given their reported impact on wild bees and the fact that they are able to enter the wider environment including soils, waterways and non-crop plants. Therefore RSPB supports a moratorium on their use until we better understand their impact.
© THE BEE COALITION