Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

'Urgent' review probes bee decline

Many species of bee and other pollinating insects have declined in recent decades

The Government is launching an "urgent and comprehensive" review of why bees are declining and what is being done to help them.

Many species of bee and other pollinating insects including butterflies, moths and hoverflies have experienced declines in recent decades, raising concerns about the impacts on food supplies, gardens and the countryside.

Factors including use of pesticides, loss of habitat and more intensive agriculture are thought to be to blame.

The review will look at current policies, the evidence on what is happening to pollinators and what action charities and businesses are taking to help the insects, Environment Minister Lord de Mauley will announce in a speech.

The work will identify what needs to be done to help bees and other insects, and will form the basis of a "national pollinator strategy" which will bring together all the initiatives already under way and help develop new action.

Lord de Mauley will tell a Bee Summit organised by Friends of the Earth: "We must develop a better understanding of the factors that can harm these insects and the changes that government, other organisations and individuals can make to help."

The Government has come under fire for opposing European moves to ban "neonicotinoid" pesticides which have been linked to bee declines, but Lord de Mauley said bees would be vulnerable with or without restrictions on insecticides.

"I do not deny for a moment that it is important to regulate pesticides effectively and to avoid unnecessary pesticide use." But he will tell the conference: "Changes in land use, the type of crops grown, alien species, climate change - these all have an impact. The relative importance of these factors and their interactions is not well understood."

The review will begin with the launch of a report on current government policy and initiatives in England, while in September a series of workshops will bring experts together to discuss the issue. And independent experts will look at the evidence on the state of UK pollinating insects, he will announce.

Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins said: "We're delighted that enormous pressure for a Bee Action Plan from scientists, businesses and the public has stung the Government into action... The Minister's plan of action must be in place when bees emerge from hibernation next spring - we can't afford to gamble any longer with our food, countryside and economy."

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