Bees are back in the news: during a debate in the house of commons today, MP Martin Caton called for neonicotinoids to be banned pending research into their effects on bees.
Neonicotinoids are a group of relatively new, but extensively used insecticides, which are synthetic versions of nicotine (yes, the addictive stuff you get in tobacco!), and are systemic, which means that every part of the treated plant ends up containing the pesticide.
As well as killing the pest insects that might eat the plant (the intention of the farmers), the pesticide is also taken up by bees when they collect nectar and pollen from flowers (the unintended consequence). The bees don’t die immediately, but it is thought that repeated exposure to low-doses of the pesticide may interfere with the working of the bee’s brains, affecting their ability to forage for food and provide for their young, or leave them vulnerable to diseases and parasites.
Although research is yet to conclusively prove a direct link between neonicotinoids and recent declines in bee populations, there is a growing body of evidence that appears to link them, and several countries have already banned or suspended their use (including France, Germany and Italy, where bee populations recovered after a ban) ; alas, the UK is not one of them.
As Organic Gardeners, we prohibit the use of all synthetic pesticides, and discourage the use of even the few ‘permitted’ natural pesticides, due to the effects they have on both friend and foe.
How can I help?
- Write to your MP – there’s some guidance on the Soil Association’s site
- Buy organic food, which is grown without pesticides
- Garden organically!
- Garden with wildlife in mind!