Earlier this month, it was revealed that the use of a pesticide, which had been banned for outdoor use in the EU and the UK since 2018, has been authorised for emergency use in England.
The pesticide, which contains a chemical called thiamethoxam, was banned because it can kill bees. However, it has been permitted for emergency use because of a virus threatening the production of sugar.
Defra – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – has claimed that the pesticide will only be permitted for use in England this year. A spokeswoman said that measures “will be tightly controlled to minimise any potential risk to pollinators”.
However, Matt Shardlow, from Buglife, has said that “nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban [neonicotinoids] from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment.”
The use of these types of chemicals has long been linked to the decline of honeybees, wild bees, and other pollinating insects. Since 2007, scientists have witnessed huge declines in some of the bee species found in Britain, which so happens to coincide with the introduction of thiamethoxam.
It’s thought that these chemicals weaken the insect’s immune system, affects the development of baby bees’ brains, and can also leave bees unable to fly.
So why has this pesticide now been approved for emergency use?
The UK, along with Belgium, Denmark, and Spain, have decided to approve the emergency use of this pesticide because there is a virus threatening sugar beet seeds, which significantly reduced the amount of sugar that was produced in 2020.
“Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorisation is desperately needed to fight this disease”, says Michael Sly, National Farmers’ Union sugar board.
Why we need bees
Bees are responsible for pollinating the majority of the world’s plants. From fruit and vegetables, to nuts and seeds, around a third of the food we eat relies on pollination by bees. Let’s not forget, they’re the sole producers of the honey we enjoy, too!
Without them, our world would suffer greatly. A number of plants would likely die unless – should the unthinkable happen – they receive help in the form of human intervention, which would alter the habitats and food chains they are a part of. This in turn, would have a huge knock-on effect that could trigger further declines or even extinctions of the organisms that depend on them.
If bees no longer buzzed, it would dramatically alter human food systems too. Crops could not be grown on such a large scale or so cheaply without bees. The quality, availability, and diversity of fresh produce would also suffer, which in turn would affect the health of the human population.
So they’re incredibly important to our entire planet.
It’s time to make your voice heard. There is an official UK Government petition currently running in the UK that is calling for the ban on the use of Neonicotinoids to continue. Click here to add your name.
Fun facts about bees
- There are approximately 20,000 species of bee on Earth.
- As well as being the world’s top pollinator, these insects are responsible for producing honey and wax.
- All species of bee, including honeybees, orchid bees, and bumble bees, measure between 0.3cm and 2.7cm long.
- Queen bees can lay over 100 eggs every single day.
- Honeybees originated in Southeast Asia.