Bees, neonics and Devon County Council

Following a campaign by Friends of the Earth, Buglife and the Devon Wildlife Trust, Devon County Council councillors have voted to ban the use of neonicotinoid (neonics) insecticides on land they control.

Neonics are groups of systemic pesticides which are applied as a seed dressing meaning that the insecticide is taken up by the plant tissue and can then be ingested by non target species such as bees and other pollinators. Buglife have been campaigning for many years now to get neonics banned as there is now a substantial body of evidence shows that their use has caused declines in bee populations – see here and here.

Honey bee
Honey bee

Well done Devon County Council! Whilst this step on its own will not remove the threat to bees across Britain it does send a message which others elsewhere will hopefully now heed.

Neonics  don’t just impact on honey bees  they can also affect bumblebees and solitary bees (along with many other species of pollinating insects). Many of these species are now in serious decline across the country – not just because of pesticide use but also because of habitat change and the loss of wild flowers. However gardens are important places for many species of bee now and as individuals we can do a lot to encourage, support and protect bees. Flowers in our gardens attract lots of insects and we can help bees by providing nesting sites for them. I have recently acquired a bee hotel to do just that.

Bee hotel 1
In essence it is a structure which is protected from the worse of the weather which provides nesting places for a number of our solitary bees which nest in small cavities

Bee hotel 2The holes (either short sections of bamboo or holes drilled into pieces of untreated wood) are of different sizes to suit different species. You can make a bee hotel yourself (see here) or buy one.

I will report back over the summer to let you know whether my bee hotel is being used!




4 thoughts on “Bees, neonics and Devon County Council

  1. Neonics certainly are toxic to bees but the key to any withdrawal or ban on the use of any pesticide is what is then used in its place? The available options to DCC are various sprays, which I’m afraid are just as toxic to bees as the neonics. As an agricultural seed treatment, it can be argued that such a treatment is less toxic to bees and other wildlife than the alternative indiscriminate, over the top of crop sprays. Acute toxicity is not the correct measure to use in accessing in-use environmental/non-target impact. The non-scientific assault by NGO’s on the use of neonics as an agricultural Seed Treatment may well have caused more damage to bees by what replaced it, as well as a large scale collapse in Oil Seed Rape sowing, an important rotational arable crop. We need to understand the bigger picture and the science behind it, not just the tabloid style headlines.

    • You may be right about pesticide replacement options. I disagree though that Bugle has been unscientific – their published review of the science behind this is extensive and compelling. The real issue here is that intensive cropping has got to a point where it can only survive by using huge quantities of insecticides and herbicides and this is proving unsustainable for our wildlife populations. I suspect we will have to agree to disagree!

  2. When applied as a seed treatment the uptake of neonicotinoids via seedling roots is inefficient and results in a very large proportion of the pesticide remaining in the soil. In addition neonics are used on wheat, barley, oats and other crops as seed treatments so it is entirely feasible that a typical arable rotation could use neonics continuously. There is also evidence that insects other than bees – flies, beetles, ephemerids, dragonflies – are affected by very low concentrations of neonics. Reports implicate neonics in bird decline (through effects on insect food species) and in effects on amphipods, annelids and fish. Such effects are not considered acceptable by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), but they are not identified by the existing regulatory system in Europe, which focuses entirely on honey bees. Neonics have been detected in groundwater, streams, storm-water ponds and tidal creeks in the USA and the Netherlands but no neonics feature in the EU Water Framework Directive list of priority substances for aquatic pollution monitoring and so they are not specifically targeted. The regulatory system for pesticides is not fit for purpose, IMHO

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