March 2 2022

Pollinators are under threat from Government decision which allows the use of bee poison.

All pollinators are at risk on 100,000 hectares of land following the Government decision to allow bee poisons use.

The sugar beet crop is affected and damaged by a virus called Virus Yellows which is carried by aphids. The Rothamsted Institute is tasked by the government to make a forecast of the level of the virus expected in the crop. This year, 2022, it forecasts that 68.9% of the crop will be affected. 

The bee poison, Cruiser SB seed treatment, which is a neonicotinoid chemical, has been triggered for use as the predicted levels are well above the 19% danger level set by the government. 

Last year, in 2021 the level of Virus threat was predicted to be 8.3% so no bee poison could be used by farmers. 

Stephen Barnes, Chair of the British Beekeepers' Association is appalled to hear about the decision to allow the use of Cruiser SB on sugar beet crops in the UK. 

"This decision is damaging to the environment and pollinators. The chemical authorised on March 1st is a neonicotinoid responsible for killing bees and other pollinators. This is not just damaging for honeybees but for all other insects, soil and watercourses. This is a dark day for British Beekeeping."

Far reaching implications

This seed treatment has long term, far reaching implications.

  • No flowering crop is to be planted within 22 months of the sugar beet crop, and no oilseed rape crop is to be planted within 32 months.
  • Industry-recommended herbicide programmes will be followed to limit flowering weeds in and around sugar beet crops.

“So for nearly 3 years, 100,000 hectares will be sprayed to ‘protect’ pollinators by making it a flower sterile desert.” said Richard Bond, Chair of BBKA’s committee for Research, Technical and Environment.

Emergency Authorisations

The Government's plan allows that applications for emergency authorisations for neonicotinoid seed treatments went against the advice of the Health and Safety Executive.

Pollinating insects are worth around £690 million to the UK’s economy per annum according to research by Reading University.  The use of bee poison and herbicides to remove all food sources will be a double blow to the health of pollinators.

The British Beekeepers Association is hugely disappointed at the Government's derogation and is deeply concerned for the future of pollinators.  When will the government and the sugar growers find a better way to manage this crop, so as to enhance and not degrade the environment?


Notes for Editor

The British Beekeepers Association has over 30,000 members.
Stephen Barnes is chair of British beekeepers association executive committee and is a second generation beekeeper living in Cumbria.
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