Pollinator populations dramatically reduced by pesticides

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Pollinating bee

Photo: Steven Falk 

It’s time to better regulate and restrict the use of pesticides in farming because evidence indicates that they are dramatically reducing the population size of vital pollinators. In Minnesota, for example, there is a much greater awareness of the decline of bees and other pollinators. A bill is going through the Minnesota House which would give cities more control over the regulation of pesticides. The cities might become refuges to pollinators (source: Minnesota Daily).

As I understand it the chemical culprit is neonicotinoids. It shuts down the nervous system of insects preventing them from doing their job. It eventually kills the bee colony.

In the UK, bees and other pollinating insects have disappeared from a quarter of their habitats. About a third of bee and hover fly species across the UK have suffered population crashes since the 1980s. This threatens food production and biodiversity. Pollinators provide a £690 million value to the economy annually in the UK.

A major culprit is industrial farming and pesticide use. In addition disease, invasive species and climate change are also threatening these species. It’s not all bad news as a 10th of pollinating species have shown increases in their habitat size. The success has been put down to more oilseed rape for the insects to feed on. Government schemes have encouraged farmers to plant more wildflowers.

Experts are worried about a mass insect extinction. There are over-intensified agricultural systems in the UK. Hover flies and bees in upland regions have suffered the worst declines.

“This pattern of biodiversity loss is happening everywhere we look”

-Dr Lynn Dix, an expert on pollination at the University of East Anglia.

“The recent decline in widespread crop pollinating bees is likely to have been caused by the toxic effects of landscape-wide neonicotinoid use,”

-Matt Shardlow, chief executive of campaign group Buglife.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that they are improving the status of pollinating insects through a 25-year Environmental Plan and National Pollinator Strategy. More needs to be done.