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Neonicotinoids and integrated pest management

Are they compatible?

Beekeeping is an ancient tradition, and honey bees have been kept in Europe for several millennia. Bees are critically important in the environment, sustaining biodiversity by providing essential pollination for a wide range of crops and wild plants. They contribute to human health and wellbeing directly through the production of honey and other foods and feed supplies such as: pollen, wax for food processing, propolis in food technology, and royal jelly as a dietary supplement and ingredient in food.

In view of the important ecological and economic value of bees, there is a need to monitor and maintain healthy bee stocks, not just locally or nationally, but globally.

Over the past 10 to 15 years, beekeepers have been reporting unusual weakening of bee numbers and colony losses, particularly in Western European countries including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

No single cause of declining bee numbers has been identified. However, several possible contributing factors have been suggested, acting in combination or separately. These include the effects of intensive agriculture and pesticide use, starvation and poor bee nutrition, viruses, attacks by pathogens and invasive species – such as the Varroa mite, the Asian hornet, the small hive beetle and environmental changes.

Clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid, are the three main neonicotinoids used by farmers. We looked into the findings, made by the EFSA (European food safety association) into the effects of these to honey bee colonies. They found that the higher the number of times crops were treated above the so called “safe Margin” throughout the year with these substances and to a high strength, that there was evidence that bee colonies were effected. It was also found that imidacloprid effects bee colonies the most and thiamethoxam made the least amount of effect to colonies but still made a considerable impact.

There was no evidence however of what effects these substances had to colonies below the so called “safe Margin”. Therefore, this safe margin is not fictional because no research has been done to the effects when used below this margin, so how do we know if it is a safe margin at all. This means that until this experiment/trial has been done, we can still not say for certain what the effects are.

We also discussed about new research and if there could be any new possible neonicotinoids could be introduced which wouldn’t effect pollinators. This seemed very unlikely as due to European laws and the strict scrutiny all new products are put under, means that most don’t make it to trial stage.

It was also proven that farmers who grow wild flower meadows around their fields, reduce the number of pest to their crows and in turn do not have to treat their crops as much and as strong as normal. This is due to the wild flowers, which attract all the same pest as their crops do. This can cause some harm to honey bees as some enemies will be attracted to the wild flowers, which could cause harm to the bees, but will not cause CCD (colony collapse disorder).

Therefore, we believe that if we could all work in unison we can help tackle these issues. In fact, we could possibly reduce these effects to all pollinators. Though no experiment has been completed we believe that if bees were exposed to small amounts of these neonicotinoids could they come resistant to them? Just like the chemicals and treatments we use during IPM.

I think we have a lot to think about and even more research to do, before we can actually provide the facts and the effects this had on our environment, agriculture and wildlife.

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