UK Parliament Celebrates Bees and Pollinators

Friday 9th May 2014

Last Wednesday (30 April 2014) Buglife and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Biodiversity hosted a “Pollinator Strategy Reception and Bee Walk” in the House of Commons – focussed on the Government’s draft National Pollinator Strategy.

Despite a tube strike there was a great turn out, a packed room with 80 attendees, a good representation of MPs – including the shadow environment minister, members of the Environmental Audit Committee, and a former Secretary of State for the Environment.  There was also a wide selection of influential people from relevant businesses and key charities.

The talks were opened and chaired by Alison Benjamin – Society Editor at the Guardian and author of ‘A World Without Bees’ – who spoke of her passionate interest in pollination and concerns from her personal experience of investigating global pollinator declines.

Barry Gardiner MP, Chairman of the APPG on Biodiversity then set out with knowledge and vigour how important it was for politicians to take a lead in reversing pollinator declines and ensuring food security and a healthy environment.

The next speaker was Dr Lynn Dicks of the University of Cambridge who described the scientific knowledge relating to the declines in different groups of pollinators and how these are related to ecological and economic impacts.  Particularly memorable was her description of the pollination of the Kiwi fruit in the buffet breakfast – they are one of the fruits that depend entirely on insect pollinators – no pollinators = no Kiwi fruit.

The event was sponsored by Waitrose and Quentin Clark, their Head of Sustainability and Ethical Sourcing, was the next speaker, explaining the importance of pollination to their business and the food supply chain, and the measures being taken by Waitrose (often in partnership with others) to save pollinators on farms.

Finally, I provided a brief review of the Government’s draft National Pollinator Strategy, welcoming in particular the commitment and leadership shown on the issue by Defra Minister Lord De Mauley.  I explained that not only is pollination essential for our diet and enjoyable recreation, the science of pollination is an important part of British heritage.

British botanist Nehmiah Grew was the first person to set out the role of pollen in plant reproduction in 1676; Philip Miller chief gardener at the Chelsea Physic Garden was the first to describe the transfer of pollen by bees in 1721; and Charles Darwin’s pollination studies and book on the pollination of orchids in 1862 were key to the wider public understanding of the crucial role of insects in pollinating plants.

Hence it is quite right that the UK builds on the excellent natural history skills and heritage and takes a lead in addressing the global decline in pollinator populations.  I then set out where we agreed with the draft Strategy and where we felt the Strategy could go further to better halt and reverse the decline in pollinators.  These points are covered in my blog and in our formal response to the consultation.

After the speeches 50 people were led by our Entomologist – Steven Falk – on a bee walk in Victoria Gardens next to the Houses of Parliament.  Steven enthusiastically showed the crowd all the different bees and flies present and explained their roles pollinating flowers in the gardens and countryside.

There was a very positive buzz about the whole event and a feeling that for once government was showing a real commitment to taking an evidence-based approach to halting a worrying decline in wildlife.

Stop Press

The Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons have announced that they will be undertaking an inquiry into the draft National Pollinator Strategy, with a particular focus on how well the strategy will address the issues of Neonicotinoid use and Integrated Pest Management.

Find out more about the Environmental Audit Committee inquiry.