Sunday, 30 November 2014

Role of pesticides in bee decline

Role of pesticides in bee decline - Scientists call for evidence-driven debate

Scientists call for evidence-driven debate

An international panel of scientists including Professor Lin Field from Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding from the BBSRC, is today calling for an evidence-driven debate over whether a widely used type of insecticide is to blame for declines in bees and other insect pollinators.

An EU ban on certain neonicotinoid insecticides was introduced in December 2013 because of fears they are harming pollinating insects. Pollination by insects is critical for many crops and for wild plants but at the same time neonicotinoids are one of the most effective insecticides used by farmers. Potential tensions amongst the agricultural and environmental consequences of neonicotinoid use have made this topic one of the most controversial involving science and policy.

A restatement of the scientific evidence on neonicotinoids has today been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The restatement, from a group of nine scientists led by Professor Charles Godfray and Professor Angela McLean of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, clarifies the scientific evidence available on neonicotinoids, to enable different stakeholders to develop coherent policy and practice recommendations.

One of the authors Professor Lin Field from Rothamsted Research said "It was a pleasure to work with my co-authors who all have diverse expertises, relevant to the debate over the potential effects of neonicotinoids on pollinators, but all wanted to look at evidence rather than opinion. It is essential that we base decisions in this important area on science, so that we find the best way forward to ensure both pollinator success and good crop protection strategies for food production."

Professor Charles Godfray said: “Pollinators are clearly exposed to neonicotinoid insecticides, but seldom to lethal doses, and we need a better understanding of the consequences of realistic sub-lethal doses to the insect individual, bee colony and pollinator population.”

Professor Angela McLean added; “A major question to be addressed is what farmers will do now that they face restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids. Will they switch to crops that need less insecticide treatment or might they apply older but more dangerous chemicals?”

The restatement describes how much insecticide is present in a treated plant and how much is consumed by pollinators. It goes on to summarise how neonicotinoids affect individual bees and other pollinators, and the consequences at the colony and population levels.

In reaction to this study, Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Advisor at Defra said: “It is essential that policies on the use of pesticides are built on sound scientific evidence. This paper provides an independent assessment of this subject which will provide clarity and authority in order to help people make more informed choices."

Paul de Zylva, from Friends of the Earth, commented: “This project is an important step toward much needed public and scientific debate and scrutiny. The Government should support and fund both more open science and safer ways to grow crops as part of its National Pollinator Strategy due in July.”

Key facts:

Since their introduction in the 1990s, the use of neonicotinoids has expanded so that today they comprise about 30% by value of the global insecticide market

Insects are important for pollinating many UK crops, including strawberry, raspberry, apple, pear, plum, tomato and many vegetables.

The populations of both managed honeybees and wild pollinators were declining before the widespread use of neonicotinoids, with habitat change and honeybee disease thought to be particularly important causes.

A series of experiments have raised the possibility that widespread neonicotinoid use may exacerbate pollinator decline, though other studies find fewer effects of the insecticide.
Linda Field

For media enquires please contact Carole Scott or Sally-Anne Stewart at the Oxford Martin School.

Carole Scott: T: 01865 287438 M: 07791 253436 or 01865 287429
Notes to Editors

The paper (Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20150558) and electronic supplementary material is open access and available here A concatenated version can be downloaded at
This summary is the second in a planned series of “restatements”, part of a project led by Professors Angela McLean & Charles Godfray from the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford. They are designed to help policy-makers access scientific evidence in controversial topics. To do this, a group of respected scientists who represent the range of views on a particular topic are convened. They together write the “restatement” of the evidence. The restatement is a series of paragraphs designed to be: concise and jargon-free, as policy neutral as possible, and each assigned a score denoting the strength and nature of the underlying evidence. Before publication each restatement is sent to a large number of interested parties and the group prepares the final version in the light of their comments.

Also taking part in the project were: Tjeerd Blacquière from Wageningen University and Research Centre, the Netherlands; Linda Field from Rothamsted Research; Rosemary Hails and Adam Vanbergen from the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; Gillian Petrokofsky from Oxford University; Simon Potts from Reading University and Nigel Raine from the University of Guelph, Canada.

The EU has banned the use of three types of neonicotinoids on crops attractive to bees for a minimum of two years.

Defra is the UK’s Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Published: 21-05-2014

Neonicotinoids and bees

Neonicotinoids and bees

The European Commission has adopted a proposal (Regulation (EU) No 485/2013 ) to restrict the use of 3 pesticides belonging to the neonicotinoids family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of 2 years. An Appeal Committee vote on 29 April 2013 returned an inconclusive opinion where: 15 Member States supported the proposal, 4 abstained and 8 voted against. Since no qualified majority was reached, procedurally, the responsibility on deciding whether to adopt the proposal was with the Commission.

Rothmasted’s position statement on this.

We are concerned that the decision has been made through political lobbying, rather than a comprehensive and sound scientific risk-benefit assessment. In our view there is still is not enough clear evidence supporting a ban on neonicotinoids. Of course they can kill bees, they are insecticides; but whether they actually do this, or whether sublethal effects occur and damage the colonies on any important scale, has not been proven.There are many other factors known to affect bee colonies - the varroa mite, the bee viruses spread by the mites, pesticides that beekeepers use to kill the mites, climate effects and flower and nectar availability - all of which need to be taken into consideration. Thinking we can solve the bee problem by a ban on neonicotinoids may mean we overlook these other important factors.

What’s more, the decision does not take account of the risk of the ban on our ability to control insect pests and secure crop yields. Securing, and indeed increasing yields for food security, is a priority in Europe and will require a crop protection strategy to avoid unnecessary losses. At present and until we find reliable and effective alternatives, the control of insect pests (and the crop diseases they carry) will rely on the use of chemical insecticides and banning neonicotinoids will reduce our options.

A major biological risk of removing an entire chemistry is that resistance will develop against the remaining products. This is exactly what has happened in human health with bacterial antibiotic resistance. Or are we willing to accept lower yields, leading to greater imports and potentially higher food prices? The UK has already become a net importer of wheat this year for the first time in a decade. It has also been reported that a ban on neonicotinoids could result in a significant impact to UK oilseed farmers, costing the UK economy £630m each year.

That said, we should not ignore the potential implications of pesticide use on pollinators. Rather than an immediate ban, we should take this opportunity to further study and de-convolute the many possible causes of colony collapse and aberrant foraging behaviour. This will then help us to balance the risks and benefits for crop protection, crop pollination, ecosystem function and our health appropriately.

We need a proper science-led risk assessment to understand the effects of pesticides (and their active ingredients) on bees, whilst considering the effects on other pollinators (both wild and managed), within the context of farming practice and the wider ecosystem. This will help us balance the risks and benefits for crop protection, crop pollination, ecosystem function and our health appropriately. More work is required to get these data.

Annual General Meeting - 14 January 2015

Annual General Meeting 

Dengie 100 & Maldon Beekeepers 

Division of Essex Beekeepers 

Registered charity No 1031419 

The AGM will take place
The Oakhouse, High Street, Maldon CM9 5PF 


Wednesday 14 January 2015 

7.30pm for 8pm start 

On behalf of the DMBKA Committee, I am pleased to invite you to attend the forthcoming Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Dengie 100 & Maldon Beekeepers Association. 

Please find attached the agenda. The financial accounts for this year will be presented at the meeting and will be made available on the website prior to the meeting. 

For nominations, please request a Nomination Form 2015 from the secretary at or call 01245 381577. 

Nominations for all positions are welcome and will be accepted at any time but no later than Sunday 11 January 2015. 

Voting members are those who have paid subscriptions for 2014 whose names appear on the Members Register held by the Division and in line with the Rules of EBKA.

7.30pm for 8pm,
Wednesday 14 January 2015,
The Oakhouse, High Street, Maldon CM9 5PF, 
  1. Opening of Meeting 
  2. Apologies 
  3. Confirmation of Minutes of previous Annual General Meeting 
  4. Presentation of Annual Report by Chairman 
  5. Adoption of Annual Report 
  6. Presentation of Treasurer’s report 
  7. Election of New Executive (Chairman Treasurer Secretary Trustee)
  8. Committee Members 
  9. Presentation and Adoption of DMBKA Divisional Hive Policy
  10. Any other business 
  11. Closure 
please click on the link to download THE Minutes of the 2014 AGM

2014 Minutes
2013 Accounts

Limited copies will be available at the meeting

Would you like to nominate yourself or someone?  Click to download nomination form

Nomination Form

Bee apprenticeships


The Bee Farmers’ Association has developed this unique apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Rowse Honey. The scheme is open to 16 to 24-year-olds and aims to equip young people with the skills and knowledge to make a successful career in the bee farming industry. Those successfully completing the three-year programme are awarded a Diploma Towards Excellence in Bee Farming by the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers.

Launched in 2014 to much interest, the first cohort of seven young people are placed with some of the most experienced bee farmers in the United Kingdom (UK).

Recruitment is on an annual basis, with programmes commencing each spring.

The Bee Farmers’ Association has plans to extend the eligibility criteria for the scheme as we recognise bee farming is often seen as a second-career opportunity.

Apprentice bee farmers [Photo: Alex Ellis]

What Will You Study?

Apprentices are employed on a bee farm in the UK.

You will be working with your employer (also called the host trainer) for the majority of the year, gaining practical experience as you earn. There may be opportunities to work on different bee farms throughout the country and visit different businesses in order to gain breadth and variety of experience.

Underpinning knowledge will be delivered by our expert industry trainers in two blocks per year, each of two weeks. You will study:

  • introduction to beekeeping
  • equipment
  • carpentry and basic woodworking skills
  • seasonal management
  • queen rearing and stock improvement
  • botany and forage sources
  • pollen and nutrition
  • honey bee anatomy
  • honey bee diseases
  • integrated pest management
  • microscopy
  • processing hive products
  • bottling and presentation
  • setting up a business
  • business structures
  • finance
  • marketing
  • the competitive environment
  • the industry worldwide
  • health and safety
  • first aid
  • food hygiene.

These residential study blocks, along with training and visit days and online forums, provide the opportunity to meet and communicate with other apprentices and build friendships and contacts for the future.


Each apprentice is allocated an assessor. Apprentices are required to record their activities in a weekly log which is signed off by their host trainer and reviewed by the assessor to confirm work meets the standards required. The log is maintained on a specially-designed e-learning platform; training is given at the start of the course on how to use this system. The team delivering and managing the programme meets regularly to ensure assessment is standardised and high-quality delivery is maintained.


In addition to specialist support provided by the host trainer and expert industry trainers, each apprentice is assigned a mentor who provides support on pastoral issues. This ensures any possible difficulties that may arise are dealt with efficiently and effectively.


Apprentices are paid directly by their employer (host trainer). While the Bee Farmers’ Association asks employers to pay a base rate which values the apprentice’s contribution to the business, employers may, and often do, pay above this rate. The training element of the scheme is financed by commercial sponsors Rowse Honey. Other sponsors provide practical benefits – for example BJ Sherriff have provided bee suits. Apprentices are provided with a rail travel card free of charge for the duration of their programme.

In cases of financial difficulty, the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers provides access to a hardship fund. Applications are considered on an individual confidential basis.


The programme lasts for three years.

Further Information

For all enquiries regarding the apprenticeship scheme, please contact the General Secretary.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Plants for bees

Plants that Attract Pollinators

Popular Garden Plants:

Basil (Ocimum)
Bee balm (Monardia)
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
Bluebeard (Caryopteris)
Borage (Borago)
Caltrop (Kallstroemia)
Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster)
English Lavendar (Lavandula)
Escallonia (Escallonia)
Evening primrose (Oenothera)
Globe thistle (Echinops)
Hyssop (Hyssopus)
Licorice Mint (Agastache)
Marjoram (Origanum)
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia)
Milkweed (Asclepias)
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus)
Russian Sage (Perovskia)
Sage (Salvia)
Siberian squill (Scilla)
Wallflower (Erysimum)
Wild lilac (Ceanothus)
Zinnia (Zinnia)

Northwest Native Plants:

Aster (Aster)
California poppy (Eschscholzia)
Currant (Ribes)
Elder (Sambucus)
Fireweed (Epilobium)
Goldenrod (Solidago)
Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium)
Larkspur (Delphinium)
Lupine (Lupinus)
Madrone (Arbutus)
Mint (Mentha)
Oregon grape (Berberis)
Penstemon (Penstemon)
Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus)
Rhododendron (Rhododendron)
Saskatoon (Amalanchier)
Scorpion-weed (Phacelia)
Snowberry (Symphoricarpos)
Stonecrop (Sedum)
Sunflower (Helianthus)
Wild buckwheat (Eriogonum)
Willow (Salix)
Yarrow (Achillea)

From the Netherlands

Plant a flower, answer a survey

Researchers studying the decline of bee species in the Netherlands have discovered that bees disappear along with their native forage.

The research, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was based on pollen samples taken from bees in museum collections. Trace samples of pollen stuck to long-dead bees were analyzed to determine which plants produced them. The information was compared to historical land-use records and bee population studies.

Sure enough, as land was converted to farming, industry, and housing, certain plants became scarce. As those plants disappeared, so did their pollinators. In the Netherlands, a highly developed country, nearly half of all native bee species are now endangered.

This study follows several other recent papers that suggest bee health is strongly influenced by the quality and diversity of dietary pollen, especially in the larval stages. Bees raised on inferior diets are less able to contend with disease and environmental stress. None of this should be a surprise: we know our own health and the health of our livestock and pets is directly related to proper nutrition, so why should bees be any different?

I was reading the Netherlands report when, by coincidence, the following comment from Donna in Kansas appeared in my in-box:

In the 50s, in north central Kansas, we had large colonies of what we called “ground bees.” On our farm, they dug their holes in the chicken yard which was right next to 120 acres of upland alfalfa. When wheat replaced alfalfa, the bees left.

Donna’s statement sums up in concrete terms what the studies tell us in the abstract: bees can’t make it without the right types of flowers.

Alfalfa provides pollen for a large diversity of bees. In fact, the last time I was at the Prosser experiment station, a graduate student at WSU was completing an inventory of the bee species found in the alfalfa seed fields of Touchet, WA. I got just a brief glimpse of her specimens, but dozens and dozens of species were represented.

Wheat on the other hand, provides nothing for bees. Donna’s bees were forced to leave when the alfalfa flowers disappeared, just as the many species of Dutch bees disappeared as their food supplies disappeared and the land was “improved.”

Many people believe that insecticides are the largest threat to bees. As significant as they are, I’m beginning to believe that loss of a proper diet is an even bigger threat. Without the building blocks for a vigorous immune system, all the other dangers in the environment—including the pesticides—become ever more perilous.

There is only so much any of us can do to fight pesticide abuse, but every single one of us can plant flowers. If we provide nourishing sustenance for the bees, we have taken the first step on a journey of recovery. We all live in different situations with different means, but whether we can plant a field or only a pot, we must do it. We must do it for them and for ourselves.

We’ve all seen certain flowers that were loaded with bees. Take a minute to answer the survey and let us know what flowers attract bees in your area. It doesn’t have to be a native species as long as bees—any bees—love it. When I get enough answers, I will post them here so other people know what to buy for their bees. Thank you for answering. Some bee, somewhere, will owe you!


Monday, 10 November 2014

Change of venue for November meeting

19 November - Members Meeting

The Oakhouse, High Street, Maldon 
7.30pm for 8pm start
Your opportunity to say what you'd like us to do in 2015
RSVP - 07979 862952

Dengie 100 & Maldon Beekeeper Training

Great evening with new beekeepers