By Darryl Cox, Information Officer
Tuning in to the parliamentary debate was initially, for me, a frustrating experience. Lots of interrupted misinformed speeches, the passing on of birthday messages, poor bee jokes, and the usual misunderstanding about bees (it is clear that many people still do not realise that the honeybee is only one of the 276 bee species found in the UK); made it all rather painful to watch.
There were some positives though, I think. The fact that the debate took place and that it was so well attended shows how seriously MPs are taking this issue, even if admittedly some of their knowledge on the subject is very sketchy. It also means that people in the UK care a great deal about our pollinators and that lots of them successfully lobbied their MPs to represent their views, of which there was clear agreement from all sides that we should not take risks when it comes to exposing bees to pesticides.
Rather annoyingly, some MP’s fixated on the hope that science will one day reveal the one true cause of bee declines and that once we have discovered this, we will know what to do. For all those who think there is a quick-fix to bee declines, I must point out the hard truth, there is not a cause and effect relationship at play here. Scientific investigation has already revealed that there are multiple stressors which are all having an effect. Reduced flower availability in our intensively farmed landscapes, exposure to parasites and diseases, climate change, and pesticide exposure have all been found to play a role in bee declines, and it is these stressors in combination which are the problem. However, as MP Daniel Zeichner sensibly pointed out, of all the threats to bees, exposure to pesticides known to cause them harm, is one which we should and can tackle now, regardless of whether or not it is the main cause for decline.