Are Bee’s Reaching their Tipping Point?
Having recently been out in my garden for the first time during these winter months to tackle the overgrown weeds, and an attempt to cut the grass whilst the sun was out I noticed a couple of bees buzzing around. This got me thinking about the report I stumbled across that came out last week on the worrying decline of bees. The European Food Safety Authority concluded that pesticides such as neonicotinoids may cause a serious threat to honeybees and wild bees along with other pollinators like butterflies, beetles and bats with a new assessment reasserting the dangers of the most widely used pesticide in the world.
As we know bees are critically important to the environment, sustaining biodiversity by providing essential pollination for a wide range of crops and wild plants. They contribute to human health and wellbeing directly through the production of honey and other food. The UK government has already applied restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids following a ban by the European Union in 2013 on the use on flowering crops– as well as the Environment Secretary announced last November that the UK government favours further restrictions on these pesticides
If we look over to the US, beekeepers have lost 30 percent of their Bee colonies every year since 2006, with a total annual loss of up to 44%. Ten years ago, the first alarming indications of major harm to bees hit global headlines. Could this be an incentive for farmers to go back to old school farming methods such as Organic farming as the solution to stop our loss of bee colonies? Although there are several factors thought to be behind these declines, changes in farming practices and land use, which affect bee’s food sources and nesting habitat; increased levels of parasites and disease; and exposure to pesticides and other toxic pollutants may also need to be factored in.
What risks do they pose to our environment?
There are many things to factor in about using neonicotinoids such as; when farmers spray neonicotinoids they tend to leak in to water supplies. They persist in soil for years, and continue to be taken up by plants long after nearby crops have been sprayed. This all leads to continued exposure for bees and other pollinators leading to a pollinator decline. The spraying leads to getting into wild flowers which are supposed to be safe zones for bees other inspects and birds.We need to move away from chemical- intensive farming and instead boost support for alternative less damaging ways of tacking persistent weeds and pests.
Parts of the UK are just a few decades away from the fundamental eradication of soil fertility. These type of chemicals which have been applied are said to be both carcinogens and suspected endocrine disruptors, results in potentially serious human health implications.
What are the environmental concerns that the pollinators play in our food system and the health of the natural world? According to Environmental Sectary Michel Gove pollinators boost the yield and quality of UK crops by £400m-£680m every year and said, for example, gala apple growers now have to spend £5.7m a year to do replace the work of lost natural pollinators. So perhaps it’s time to plant more flowers in our gardens to support our pollinating bees in a natural habitat.
By Yasmin Redfern