Ministers aim to take sting out of bee decline

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The Government may consider a National Bee Action Plan later this year as bee numbers in the UK continue to fall dramatically.

Hugh Bayley, MP for York Central, said he had written to the minister responsible for bee health and has been told that Government is considering a National Bee Action Plan and intends to respond “after the summer”.

The news comes with three bumblebee species already now declared extinct due to habitat loss, disease, and climate change. Bees pollinate as much as 75 per cent of food crops and plants and their disappearance has been estimated to be likely to cost UK farmers as much as £1.8bn a
year.

Many campaigners link pesticide use to the decline, with Mr Bayley meeting with representatives of Friends of the Earth and local beekeeping groups yesterday on the matter.

“Bees are vital to pollinate most of the fruit and vegetables that we eat and also for crops in the fields,” he said. “The fall in the number of bees in recent years is worrying.

“In the past, I have pressed the Government to suspend the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths until independent reviews have confirmed whether they are contributing to declining bee populations.”

However a Wendy Gray, spokeswoman for the Crop Protection Association said the causes of poor bee health are multi-faceted and include parasites, viruses, diseases as well as a lack of
 suitable forage and nesting habitats.

She said: “There is no credible scientific evidence of effects on bee health associated with the proper use of neonicotinoid-based insecticides whether in seed treatments or sprays.

“The allegations of some studies of widespread harm to pollinators are contradicted by nearly two decades of responsible use of these important pesticides on many millions of crop acres worldwide and by a large and growing body of scientific research examining field-relevant exposures.”

mark.casci@ypn.co.uk