I’ve been thinking about bees recently and the more you read, the more worrying it is. It’s common knowledge that honey bees are facing a crisis and as a result so are we. The collapse of honey bee colonies across the world continues and reports are confirming just how serious this could be for our global food security as well as biodiversity.

The statistic ‘A third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees’ is often banded about, and if this is true it’s pretty shocking, imagine one in every three of the mouthfuls you put in your mouth every day, gone. Bees are also reportedly responsible for 70 of the 100 crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food.

This all points to the obvious fact that we really need bees if we are to continue producing food the way we do, and we still need them if we ever manage to shift our food production methods to slower, more environmentally sensitive ones.

The mysterious collapse of bee colonies in America and Europe, termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has been widely studied but the reasons for the disappearance and deaths of so many bee colonies remains controversial. The reasons are complex with many contributing factors. A significant root cause appears to be changes in farming methods over the past 50 or so years, with the move away from bio-diverse, low impact methods to mechanised agricultural farming, monocultures and the widespread use of chemical pesticides. A decline in flowering plants and the worldwide spread of pests and air pollution also play their part.

In the mid 1990s the rate of bee disappearances increased alarmingly, around the same time a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids had started to be used on agricultural crops.  The neonicotinoids work as an effective pesticide by blocking neural pathways in an insect’s central nervous system, as a result these chemicals impair the bees in exactly the same way, affecting communication, homing and foraging ability, ability to smell, learn and their immune systems. Now consider that honey bees live and work as a collective, not individuals and the cumulative effect of many doses of harmful neonicotinoids would invariably impact upon their ability to work as a colony.

Effects of the systemic insecticide neonicitonoid imidacloprid were studied by the French group ‘Comite Scientifique at Technique’ as a cause of the decline in bee colonies eventually leading to a ban on neonicotinoids in France. Similar bans are in place in Germany and Italy, but regulations in Britain and America remain relaxed and pesticide application continues unabated. These pesticides are not only going on agricultural crops, they are also found in gardening products sold in stores such as B+Q and Homebase throughout Britain and could be in a garden near you.

Farming needs to go back to basics, stop spreading destructive pesticides which actively kill whole bee colonies and strive for a system which relies on natural ecosystems to function. With fields growing crops combined with clovers and a variety of other wild flowers and ‘weeds’ the bees have the best chance of survival. There are over 250 species of native bee in Britain and some of these like the solitary bee species Leafcutter and Red Mason bee only gather pollen from some of our most rare and precious wildflowers, if they die out, so too will the flowers.

What Can You Do??

When buying any pest control check for acetamiprid, imidacloprid,  thiacloprid or thiamethoxam and avoid these products, the soil association has information about these products

Watch ‘Vanishing of the Bees’ a great documentary exploring the plight of the bees, sign a petition and learn more at

Keep Bees. Learn all about it at the

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