The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Neonicotinoid Insecticides
Position Statement, December 2012
There is now mounting evidence of the problems associated with neonicotinoid insecticides. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust is seriously concerned by the results of research published in the leading international journals Science and Nature, demonstrating the sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bumblebees.
Harm to populations of pollinator insects, especially bumblebees, erodes the ecosystem service provided by pollination, potentially reducing the economic value of many agricultural and horticultural crops, as well as contributing to a decrease in the United Kingdom’s biodiversity.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust recognises that there might be occasions when neonicotinoid insecticides are the only chemicals that are available for a specific purpose. It believes that banning the use of such substances may lead to the take-up of other, potentially harmful insecticides.
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust also recognises that there is a need to clearly establish the effects of these poisons in the wild. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust urges a greater investment in research, moving the emphasis more towards field-based studies, together with gaining a greater understanding of the economic impacts of reduced pollinator populations.
At the time of writing this statement, the UK Government has commissioned field studies into the use of neonicotinoid insecticides in order to evaluate the effect such poisons have in the wild. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust welcomes this research which is being carried out by the Food and Environmental Research Agency (FERA).
The Bumblebee Conservation Trust currently advocates the application of the ‘precautionary principle’ in the licensing and use of neonicotinoid insecticides. Except in exceptional circumstances, neonicotinoid insecticides should be used only in situations where publically available research can clearly demonstrate that these chemicals cause no harm to bumblebees, other pollinators, or more widely to the UK’s biodiversity.
Bumblebee Conservation Trust will continue to keep this policy under review and will update its position as new research and evidence comes to light. We are not calling for a ban at this time but we urge the UK Government to:
- act swiftly to complete its research into the risks that neonicotinoid insecticides pose in the wild
- publish the results of that research
- review the environmental impacts of chemical alternatives should a ban be introduced
- place a higher priority on developing safe alternatives
- research the economic and environmental trade-offs between using neonicotinoid insecticides, restricting or banning their use, and increasing habitat available for bumblebees.
work with other European countries in assessing the risks associated with the use of neonicotinoid insecticides to bees and more widely to biodiversity