Our bees are in trouble. Without them, our environment, food and economy are in trouble too.
Here in the UK, bees are facing many dangers from:
Toxic neonicotinoid pesticides
We believe the scientific evidence showing the threat bees face from neonicotinoids (neonics) is now overwhelming (see the link at the bottom of this page for more information). There are currently restrictions on some of these neonicotinoids at the European Union level, but they don’t cover all crops and could be overturned next year. Brexit could see the UK pesticide rules completely rewritten.
- Habitat loss
It’s vital that bees have enough flowers to forage as well as use for safe nesting sites. But since the 1900s we’ve lost 98% of our wildflower meadows leaving our bees with fewer options.
The loss of key habitats has meant that wildlife, including bees have become more dependent on protected wildlife sites. Yet the Government revealed that just 3% of the most precious protected wildlife sites in England were in good condition in 2013.
New research has also begun to show an increase in pesticides on wildflowers which grow in fields next to crops treated with noenicitinoids.
- Climate change
Climate change is increasingly becoming a factor contributing to the threat to bees in the UK. With winters becoming warmer and wetter, it could cause some of our our bees and the plants they depend on and pollinate to fall dangerously out of sync.
It would also cost farmers £1.8 billion a year to hand pollinate crops. Without bees, we’re in serious trouble. And it’s estimated that across Europe, nearly one in ten species of wild bees are threatened from extinction.
Why do we need bees?
Bees are perfect at pollinating all sorts of plants – from fruit and vegetables, to trees, commercial crops and garden plants. They pollinate many food crops which contain essential nutrients for our diet, and their services are free – without them, pollination would become very expensive and time-consuming.
The honey bee is probably the best-known bee around, but there are actually over 260 species of wild bumblebee and solitary bee in the UK. And not enough is being done to protect all bees.
Bees are responsible for every third mouthful we eat. And they pollinate plants in gardens, parks and the wider countryside, including over ¾ of the UK’s wildflowers. There’s so much they do for us.
Bees and neonicotinoids
From bumble bees to solitary bees, we rely on each one to help pollinate our crops, plants in our gardens and countryside. But since 1900, we’ve lost around 20 species of bee in the UK alone.
While loss of habitat and climate change are key factors, the impact of pesticides – specifically neonicotinoids – is playing a huge part in our critically declining bee populations.
Neonicotinoids – or neonics – are systemic pesticides which means they are absorbed into every part of the plant – from the roots and stem, to leaves and pollen. When a bee feeds on the pollen or nectar containing neonicotinoids, it damages its nervous system and motor function, affecting its feeding, homing, foraging and reproduction. Bees are particularly susceptible compared to other insects, as they’re less able to detoxify harmful chemicals from their bodies.
Neonicotinoids and the EU ban
Three years ago these pesticides were restricted across the EU following a vote of European Member States. This move was vigorously opposed by the UK despite the scientific evidence that they posed a “high acute risk” to honeybees.
Since then scientific evidence of their threat to all bee species – and other wildlife– has grown stronger still.
But the current EU ban on bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) isn't secure and can be lifted. This isn’t good enough, which is why we’re asking people like you to demand a permanent ban on neonics.
The UK Government needs to urgently act – they’ve been sitting on the fence for far too long and haven’t made any concrete decisions, claiming it doesn’t have enough evidence on bees and neonics. This is not the case. Here are 5 reasons why.
Want to find out more?
Email the Bee Cause team on firstname.lastname@example.org