What price research and bees?

Monday 4th March 2013
Reserched: British black bee and Scottish bumble bee

Scottish ministers are being urged to back a proposed EU ban of the neo-nicotinoids pesticide blamed for killing bees. A five-strong group of environmental bodies have asked environment minister, Richard Lochhead, to support the proposed ban of neo-nicotinoids used on oilseed rape and other crops.The group cites several research works and investigations as to their effect on the dramatic decrease in honey bee numbers in Scotland, other parts of Europe and the USA.

According to the Scottish Wildlife Trust, neonicotinoids have been linked to a 10 to 15% decline in bee numbers, reports The Scotsman.  In  2011, several thousand British black bees stolen from  Dundee Centre for Neurosciences at Dundee University medical school, were never recovered, impacting on a £2m multidisciplinary research effort into the effect of miticides and pesticides on the nervous systems of bees, then underway in conjunction with Newcastle and London Royal Holloway Universities, and  to run to 2015.

However, last year research  at the University of Stirling, published in "Science"  focused on bumble bee nests,  and confirmed one global cause of bee decline. The neonicotinoid insecticides used as a seed dressing to protect against pests are systemic, travelling through plants, with low levels being found in nectar and pollen. Researchers found bumblebee nests, even exposed to such low-levels for just two weeks,  grew more slowly, showing an 85% reduction in the number of new queens produced. Sadly, bumble-bee work does not appear to constitute research that should justify action. 

The Stirling research follows on US analysis work on bees  found dead in and around hives from several apiaries  two years previously in Indiana, andd that also howed the presence of neo-nicotinoid insecticides used to coat corn and soybean seeds before planting being present in the dead bees.

Richard Lochhead (left) is now being asked by Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, Buglife and Butterfly Conservation Scotland to lobby his coalition government counterpart Owen Paterson to back the implementation of the ban on 15 March.

The move follows the publication of a scientific review from the European Food Safety Authority which identified a “high, acute risk to honey bees” from three varieties of neonicotinoids believed to interfere with nerve impulse transmission in insects, leading to strong muscle contractions and death.

The groups write in a letter to the minister: “Evidence continues to grow that neonicotinoid use poses a significant risk to pollinating insects. Bees and other pollinating insects play a vital role in food production, worth approximately £43 million a year to our economy, as well as being an integral part of natural ecosystems.”

France, the Netherlands, and Poland support a ban: other member states, UK, Spain and Germany, are believed to be oppose it presently, as clearly do the pesticide companies.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have asked the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) for further urgent advice, taking account of further research. This will then help to inform the Scottish Government’s view on next steps.” 



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