Globally, bees are dying, threatening our crops, food and wild flowers. The last five years has seen an increase in public pressure and scientific research(1) which has helped convince the European Union to ban some poisonous neonicotinoid pesticides. The UK government, perhaps a little slow on the uptake or belief of the scientific research, has now too felt the pressure and recently launched a new strategy with the aim to support bees and other pollinators that are vital for fertilising plants.
The strategy aims to deliver across five key areas:
- Supporting pollinators on farmland – including Integrated Pest Management
- Supporting pollinators across our towns, cities and countryside – including encouraging the public to take action in their gardens, allotments, window boxes
- Enhancing the response to pests and disease – including improving beekeepers’ husbandry and management practices to strengthen the resilience of bee colonies
- Raising awareness of what pollinators need to survive – encouraging sharing of knowledge between scientific institutions and non-government organisations (NGOs)
- Improving evidence on the status of pollinators and the service they provide – long-term monitoring studies.
The charities Buglife and Friends of the Earth both broadly welcome the plan, but suggest that it does not go far enough on the regulation of pesticides. These views are further supported by a new study(2) that suggests adoption of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) by European farmers cannot be based solely on mandatory regulation by the European Union(3). The research identified four key factors driving IPM adoption; including market forces, policy instruments and farmers’ attitudes to the environment.
Whilst the strategy may not have gone far enough, the UK Government has made a step in the right direction and I’m encouraged to see part of the Government’s strategy has been to gain pledges from organisations such as Network Rail, Highways Agency and the National Trust. The organisations have pledged to take direct actions such as planting more bee-friendly wild flowers and allowing grass to grow longer on their vast land holdings.
The Ecology Consultancy too has helped by providing a submission to the strategy concerning the positive encouragement of pollinators on development sites, including the provision of green roofs and walls and changes to grounds management practice.
(1) Lu, C., Warchol, K.M., and Callahan, R.A. (2014). Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder. Bulletin of Insectology 67 (1): 125-130, 2014
(2) Lefebvre, M., Langrell, S. R. H., and Gomez-y-Paloma, S. (2014). Incentives and policies for integrated pest management in Europe: a review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 1107. DOI:10.1007/s13593-014-0237-2.
(3) Directive 2009/128/EC on the sustainable use of pesticides seeks to promote low pesticide-input pest management including IPM and alternative approaches or techniques such as non-chemical alternatives to pesticides and organic farming. Further details on the regulatory regime, current pesticide policies and initiatives, and on Directive 2009/128/EC, are in Section 4 of the Supporting Document published with this Strategy