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Category Archives: Bees
There was great news today when the government launched an “urgent” review of the crisis facing bees and other pollinators in the UK and introduced a national pollinator strategy.
Defra Minister Lord Rupert de Mauley announced “an urgent and comprehensive review of current policy, evidence and civil society action on pollinators to identify what needs to be done to integrate and step up our approach.”
The news was welcomed by Friends of the Earth, who said: “We’re delighted that enormous press from scientists, businesses and the public has stung the government into action. The minister’s plan of action must be in place when bees emerge from hibernation next spring: we can’t afford to gamble any longer with our food, countryside and economy.”
Bees and other pollinators fertilise three-quarters of global food crops and have seen severe declines in recent decades, due to loss of habitat, disease and harmful pesticides. In the UK, wild honey bees are nearly extinct, solitary bees are declining in more than half the areas studied and some species of bumblebee have been lost altogether.
De Mauley said: “We know there are gaps in the evidence. That is why I am launching an urgent and comprehensive review of current policy, evidence and civil society action on pollinators to identify what needs to be done to integrate and step up our approach. This urgent review will form the basis of a national pollinator strategy, which will bring together all the pollinator-friendly initiatives already underway and provide an umbrella for new action.
“We all recognise that pollinators play a vital role in the security of our food supply and the quality of our natural environment In safeguarding their future, we can secure our own.”
Friends of the Earth said: “Announcing a National Pollinator Strategy is an important step in the right direction. Now the hard work starts. It will still take some time for the Government’s bee-saving measures to be finalised. So we will need to keep up the campaign pressure. The detail is everything. Today is a day to celebrate, but we can’t ease off just yet.”
Efforts to reintroduce an extinct species of bumblebee to the UK received a boost this month with new queens released into the wild.
The short-haired bumblebee was once widespread across the south of England but it vanished in 1988. However, have collected a healthy stock of the bees from Sweden, and are reintroduced them to the RSPB’s Dungeness nature reserve, home to most of the UK’s seven species of rare bumblebee.
The first generation of queens collected and released last year struggled in the cold wet conditions last summer, and it is hoped the new queen bees will bolster the colony. More short-haired bumblebees joined them this month.
Nikki Gammans, from the Short-haired Bumblebee Project, said: “Kent is really the best place in the whole of the UK for bumblebees. We haven’t found any yet from last year, but what we hope to do is a number of re-introductions, at least five, and then the numbers will pick up and we’ll start to see them again.”
The loss of the short-haired bumblebee was caused by the dramatic decline of wildflower meadows that occurred after World War II as agriculture intensified. It is estimated that 97% of Britain’s flower-rich grasslands, which the bees needed to forage and thrive, have vanished over the past 70 years.
It was truly amazing that Europe voted to support the partial ban on neonicotinoids this week, not least because it demonstrates a shifting awareness and consciousness of the importance of pollinators. However, although the restrictions will help enormously, they will not in themselves stop bee decline.
We need to continue the momentum we have built up on the pesticides issue, but also we all need, urgently, to PLANT MORE FLOWERS!
We have lost a staggering 98% of wildflower meadows and grasslands in the UK since the 1940’s. It is difficult to change agricultural practices overnight, but it is easy for those of us with gardens to fill every available space in ours with nectar & pollen rich flowers.
Many people say they haven’t room for flowers because they are using it all to grow fruit & veg – but without the flowers to sustain the pollinators throughout their life-cycles……
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Great news! After months of campaigning by environmentalists, the European Commission has taken action to protect bees by restricting the use of harmful chemicals in pesticides.
Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban and, even though the vote was split, the Commission imposed a two-year restriction on three neonicotinoids, which research has shown to harm bees – and the UK cannot opt out.
The ban means neonicotinoids will not be used on crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators, there will be a ban on the sale of neonicotinoids to amateur growers.
The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 December this year. After today’s vote, EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22bn euros (£18.5bn; $29bn) annually to European agriculture, are protected.”
The UK was among eight countries that voted against the ban, arguing that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive. Four nations also abstained. But Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said the vote “makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming scientific, political and public support for a ban. Those countries opposing a ban have failed.”
A report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January concluded the pesticides posed “a high risk” to pollinators, including honeybees.
There was intensive lobbying in the run-up to Monday’s vote. Protesters against neonicotinoids rallied in Westminster on Friday and campaign organiser Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth said “leading retailers have already taken action by removing these pesticides from their shelves and supply chains – the UK government must act too”.
Campaigners marched on Parliament yesterday, urging the British Government to support a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that are responsible for declining bee numbers.
The ‘March of the Beekeepers’ in Parliament Square came ahead of a crucial vote in Brussels next week, and included a number of celebrities, as well as many beekeepers, conservationists, gardeners and environmental activists. Fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett and artist Rachel Whiteread were among those protesting at Westminster.
Yellow and black dominated the scene as many in attendance dressed as bees and carried signs with slogans such as “Like Food? Love Bees” and “No to Neonic,” referring to pesticide class called neonicotinoids that a number of recent studies have tied directly to the decline of bee populations.
Member states are due to decide whether or not to introduce a two-year moratorium on their use on Monday. Unlike France, Spain and Italy, Britain is widely expected to abstain or vote no against the neonicotinoid ban, saying the impact of the pesticides on bees is unclear and the restrictions could harm crop production.
The organisers of the so-called “March of the Beekeepers” included Avaaz, Friends of the Earth, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, Soil Association and the group 38 Degrees.
“Ministers can’t ignore the growing scientific evidence linking neonicotinoid insecticides to bee decline,” said Friends of the Earth’s campaigns director Andrew Pendleton. “Their claims to be concerned about bee health will ring hollow if they fail to back European moves to restrict the use of these chemicals.”
So far 2.6 million people have signed the Avaaz petition, which calls for the immediate ban of neonicotinoid pesticides.
The Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, must end Defra’s “extraordinary complacency” and suspend the use of pesticides linked to serious harm in bees, according to a damning report from a leading group of cross-party MPs.
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has told the UK Government they were wrong when they chose not to support a two year ban on the three neonicotinoid pesticides most dangerous to bees and should change its position.
Members of the EAC concluded that by the start of 2014 the UK Government must enforce a moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, as well as support a similar proposal at a European level.
“The environment department seems to be taking an extraordinarily complacent approach to protecting bees given the vital free service that pollinators provide to our economy,” said the EAC’s chair, Joan Walley. “We believe that the weight of scientific evidence now warrants precautionary action.”
The Committee also called for data on the environmental safety of pesticides to be made public and highlighted the urgent need for a wild pollinator monitoring programme, which would show where pollinators need our help the most.
Friends of the Earth has written to the Government asking it to ban the worst bee-harming pesticides, and is now asking you to add your name to the letter, which tells Ministers to ban the most bee-harming pesticides and accept the EAC’s recommendations.
The charity said: “If enough of us add our names we can persuade the Government to accept the EAC’s recommendations – and follow the lead of the DIY stores and garden centres that have already taken some of the most dangerous pesticides off their shelves.”
There was widespread anger as the European proposal to protect bees from toxic pesticides failed to get a majority.
Campaigners across the continent hoped the European Commission’s proposed two-year suspension of neonicotinoids would be passed, but major nations, including UK and Germany, failed to back the plan in a vote on Friday.
The result leaves environmental campaigners, scientists and some politicians bitterly disappointed. “Britain and Germany have caved in to the industry lobby and refused to ban bee-killing pesticides” said Iain Keith, of the campaign group Avaaz. “Today’s vote flies in the face of science and public opinion and maintains the disastrous chemical armageddon on bees, which are critical for the future of our food.
“But the European Commission will appeal the decision and can still get it adopted! This week we got Spain on our side, let’s keep up the pressure on Germany, the UK and other countries who abstained or opposed today.”
Suspensions have previously been put in place in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia, but the EC proposal would have applied across all 27 member states. Many major agricultural nations, including France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland, voted for the ban, while the UK and Germany abstained, with Hungary and Romania leading those opposed.
However, the ban could still be enforced within months if the EC takes the decision to an appeals committee. Friday’s vote, by member states’ experts on the standing committee on the food chain and animal health, saw 13 nations in favour of the ban, five abstaining and nine opposing, meaning there was no majority for or against.
In just hours, the European Union will vote on whether to ban toxic pesticides that are killing bees around the world and threatening our food supply.
The big corporations profiting from the pesticides are lobbying furiously to defeat the ban and the campaign group Avaaz has just heard that key governments are about to cave in – unless they feel the sting of public opinion!
Avaaz says: “Bees are disappearing around the world at alarming rates. Because bees pollinate our crops, experts are warning that these mass deaths pose a catastrophic threat to our food supply.
“Thankfully, numerous studies have now identified the likely culprit: a certain class of noxious pesticides. An official EU report found that banning them could solve the problem, but pesticide giant Bayer is trying to convince our leaders to ignore the science to protect their profits.”
“Over 2.5 million of us have signed the petition that made this vote possible – and now it’s time to tell our politicians that they must side with science to save the bees this week. Let’s flood the inboxes of our EU Agriculture Ministers, drown out the corporate lobby, and make sure our governments saves the bees and our food. Over 300,00 people have so far!”
Visit the Avaaz website to send a message to the EU Ministers of Agriculture, and urge them to support this crucial proposal.