Government must ban bee-harming pesticides as new research shows risk to bumblebee extinction

14 Aug 2017
The UK government must permanently extend current neonicotinoid restrictions to all crops to help save bees.

The government must act to permanently ban bee-harming pesticides says Friends of the Earth as new research from Royal Holloway University released today (14 August) suggests that neonicotinoid pesticides pose a risk of bumblebee extinction.

The research showed that queen bees exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides were 26% less likely to be able to start a new colony.

Friends of the Earth is urging the UK government to back moves in the EU to permanently extend current neonicotinoid restrictions to all crops – and commit to keeping any ban post-Brexit.

Responding to the research, Sandra Bell, Friends of the Earth nature campaigner, said:

“This new study comes hot on the heels of the largest field trials of neonicotinoids showing harm to honey bees and wild bees.  It also follows new evidence of how these pesticides leak into the environment and turn up in wildflowers posing further risk to bees. 

“It is clear that use of these chemicals on any crop poses a risk to bees and other wildlife. The Government has repeatedly said it will follow the science – how much more science does it need before it acts to protect our precious bees?

“Michael Gove must put his support behind a comprehensive ban on neonicotinoid pesticides across the EU and continue the ban in the UK post-Brexit”

ENDS

Editor’s notes:

  1. Bumblebees are less able to start colonies when exposed to a common neonicotinoid pesticide, which could lead to collapses in wild bee populations, according to new research published today (link live at 4pm) in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London, and the University of Guelph have found that exposure to thiamethoxam, a common pesticide, reduced the chances of a bumblebee queen starting a new colony by more than a quarter. 
  2. In June 2017 a pan-European field study was published providing evidence that neonicotinoids harm honeybees and wild bees.  Covering a crop area equivalent to 3,000 football pitches, it was the biggest yet real-world study of these pesticides. Undertaken in the UK, Germany and Hungary, the experiment found : Increasing levels of neonicotinoid residues in the nests of wild bee species was linked with lower reproductive success across all three countries; Exposure to treated crops reduced overwintering success of honeybee colonies – a key measure of year-to-year viability – in the UK and Hungary.
  3. Another study this year, carried out on corn farms in Canada, found crops were not the main source of neonicotinoids to which bees were exposed. Instead, the contaminated pollen came from wildflowers, as has also been shown in the UK. Nadia Tsvetkov, at York University in Canada and who led the research said that “This indicates that neonicotinoids, which are water soluble, spill over from fields into the surrounding environment, where they are taken up by other plants that are very attractive to bees”.

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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust