It’s a well known fact that for the last few years, Britain’s bee populations have been in decline. With the national population of bees estimated to be down by 15%, an amount which is still increasing, the British government has pledged £10m of funding to research into the reasons behind the drop in numbers.
Honey bees no longer exist in the wild, and if numbers continue to fall as they have recently, there could be severe consequences for Britain’s food production. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating vast quantities of crops, fruit and vegetables, and without them, there could be a food crisis. Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn commented on the declining population, stating that,
“We don’t fully understand what the cause is. Therefore we need to invest more and all of these institutions, majority government funding, have come together so we can better understand what’s going wrong and try and put it right.”
The funding is made up of investments from the Scottish Government, Defra and contributions from the private sector. It is hoped the research will help provide answers so action can be taken to prevent further losses of the bee population. Current suspects for the causes of decline are poor weather conditions, contributed to by climate change, increases in disease due to inexperienced bee keepers not maintaining effective bee health, and the Varroa mite.
The Soil Association recently attributed pesticide use in agriculture to the problem, to which Britain’s largest farmer, Co-Operative Farms, temporarily banned use of the pesticide on its farms until concrete evidence is provided that the chemical does not negatively impact bee populations. The Soil Association claimed that the pesticide disrupts bees’ natural communication by damaging their nervous system, as well as weakening their immune system. The government, however, refuted this, stating that there is no evidence that the pesticide causes damage to bees.
Perhaps rather than spending £10m simply researching bees’ decline, governments should take notice of and utilise research other people have done and spend this substantial amount of money creating more habitats and promoting natural farming methods to preserve the existing colonies and their habitats.