The UK government urged the public today to prevent the decline
of bees, releasing five steps that could help stem the catastrophic
fall in bee populations worldwide.
But with the government opposing last year’s proposed European
Union ban on neonicotinoids, a pesticide widely linked to bee
deaths, the advice smacks of half-measures and shifting
Other sound advice includes “avoid disturbing or destroying
nesting insects”, which in plain language translates to the
stunningly obvious, “don’t kill any bees.”
The fifth and final piece of advice is “think carefully before
In April 2013, MPs were rather more blunt about the effect of
pesticides, calling for a temporary ban on their use. The chair of
the Environmental Audit Committee Joan Walley said that “the
weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary
action” and that the government’s approach was “extremely complacent”.
Neonicotinoids have been repeatedly linked to bee deaths, also
known as colony collapse disorder. Several studies
in 2012 and a
European Food Safety Authority report from January 2013 pointed
to a connection beween the pesticide and the disappearance of
Bee deaths pose a fundamental threat to our food supply. Without
pollinating bees, the entire food chain begins to break down. In
the winter of 2012, nearly one third of all commercial bees in the
US died or disappeared.
“We’re getting closer and closer to the point where we don’t
have enough bees in this country to meet pollination demands,”
entomologist Dennis van Engelstorp of the University of Maryland
told Wired in 2013.
So when the environment undersecretary Rupert de Mauley says, “I
want to make sure that we do all we can to safeguard [bees],” while
also refusing to consider even a temporary ban on neonicotinoids,
it is probably worth taking his comments with a pinch of salt.