National Pollinator Strategy, first rung for bee recovery

Tuesday 4th November 2014

In welcoming the National Pollinator Strategy Buglife are delighted that the Government has recognised, and is addressing, the serious threats to pollinating insects, but cautions that the strategy does not go far enough.

Buglife praise the commitment to introducing a monitoring programme for pollinators and to review the strategy at regular intervals. 
Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife commented. “This is a starting point, an important step towards getting society to provide the right space for pollinators to thrive and to stop the endangered species from disappearing entirely, we will be watching the results carefully, and we are sure that more cross government commitment and action will be required before we get bees back on the road to recovery.

It is time now for everyone to come together around this national strategy; for government to deliver tens of thousands of hectares of restored wildflower habitats in the countryside, creating a network of B-Lines so that pollinators can move across the landscape effectively; for local authorities to transform roadside verges and public spaces into buzzing, colourful wildlife havens; and for the public to find space in their lawns to let the flowers bloom”.

Buglife are disappointed that Bumblebees’ nests are not to be protected – it is unacceptable to disturb a bird’s nest or bat roost, but people can spray poison on a bee nest. The strategy does not commit to much-needed improvement to the testing regime for new pesticides or to tighten the restrictions on neonicotinoid use.

Shardlow continued. “Recent history has shown that we are still authorising insecticides that kill bees and other wildlife, there must be more thorough testing so that licenced pesticides are indeed environmentally safe.”

80% of crops are pollinated by insects, providing one in every three mouthfuls of food, and often the best mouthfuls, but bees, moths, hoverflies and other pollinators are in steep decline putting food security and a healthy environment in jeopardy, pollination is worth over half a billion pounds to the UK economy every year. And yet more than 60 per cent of pollinators are declining.

The intensification of agriculture has been so great that populations of pollinators in the wider countryside are critically low, indeed there is now evidence that some crops such as apples are no longer being adequately pollinated – losing farmers money.  Meanwhile urban areas still have much higher densities of suitable flowers and are not subject to widespread insecticides applications; hence the populations of bumblebees and other pollinators are more abundant in urban areas than the countryside.  However inappropriate development, for instance on flower rich meadows or wild brownfield sites has resulted in damage to pollinator populations, and in many cases this is damage to some of the rarer and more sensitive species that are now failing to thrive in the countryside.

The first big test of the new Strategy will be agricultural subsides, the last 25 years of agri-environment payments have created 6,500 ha of pollinator friendly habit – just 0.3% of the area lost – bee conservationists will be looking to the new environmental land management scheme to provide sufficient support to enable farmers to restore and create 10s of thousands of hectares of wildflowers.

Buglife's alternative manifesto for pollinators