Apis mellifera

Avid followers of …handpicked and carefully sorted…. will recall my previous blog on bees and the debate on whether neonicotinoid insecticides should be banned or not. Well, unsurprisingly, the debate continues. A media release from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) on 11 September called for an “independent and comprehensive assessment of the impact of neonicotinoids”. This is in response to a call from Buglife for the suspension on the use of these chemicals.

Buglife is marketed as “the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates”. Last month, the organisation published a report entitled ‘The impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on bumblebees, Honey bees and other non-target invertebrates’. The report focuses on imidacloprid because, as stated, it is the most thoroughly assessed of the neonicotinoid insecticides, and there is a vast amount of scientific literature on it and the impact it has on bees.

A Draft Assessment report (DAR) for imidacloprid was produced in 2005 and served as the foundation for the EU regulatory approvals process for this pesticide. However, we are told that independent research, not included in the DAR, found significant negative impacts on bees. Scientific evidence presented shows that bees eating nectar and pollen contaminated with imidacloprid, forage and reproduce less. Buglife say that their report highlights the inadequacy of the current European approval process in relation to imidacloprid.


The NFU says that Buglife’s call for a suspension on the use of neonicotinoids is not backed by any of the key beekeeping organisations in the UK. However, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, along with the Soil Association and Pesticides Action Network, support the call. The NFU stand by what they say is “a very rigorous approval process” for pesticides and would rather work on the basis of what is known, not what is suspected. Whereas Buglife prefer to stand by the precautionary principle stating that “if there are reasonable scientific grounds for believing that a new product may not be safe, it should not be used until there is convincing evidence that the risks are small and outweighed by the benefits”.

Bee farmer and secretary of the Bee Farmer’s Association, UK, John Howat said that they are not prepared to call for a ban until a comprehensive, impartial review of all the evidence, which takes into account the quality of the evidence and relevance to honey bees in the field, is carried out.

So, both sides are united in their request for more evidence and sound scientific research. As a researcher myself, I can’t argue with that!

Want to find out more? Read Buglife’s report here and search the CAB Direct database for more than 3100 records on imidacloprid.

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