Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Dear UK Government.....

I have read your National Pollinator Strategy and although it shows forward thinking and understanding in some areas, I find it lacking in others. You are simply not doing enough to help bees and other pollinating insects and it is becoming increasingly difficult to understand why, given the enormous importance and significance of bee decline, you don't do more.

You talk about 'needing to do more research' before you will consider implementing a proper ban on neonicotinoids. You search in vain for new evidence, apparently desperate to find something to support your hope that these pesticides are NOT harming bees, whilst in the mean time, evidence that neonics do harm bees (as well as other invertebrates and wildlife) continues to stack up... and bees continue to decline in numbers and species.

Whatever happened to the precautionary principle? Or common sense? It does not take a rocket scientist to see the connection between neonicotinoid pesticides and bee decline and no amount of 'further research' is going to change the fact that these highly dangerous neuro-toxins, which are now saturating our agricultural landscape and waterways, are doing far more harm than good.

Why do you ignore existing research that shows clearly how damaging neonicotinoids are to bees? Why do you accept such inadequate research from the pesticides industry when you authorise these pesticides in the first place? Where is the research to discover how long these toxins stay in the soil? What is being done to discover the impact they are having on our aquatic invertebrates? And why are you not monitoring pollinator populations more closely....if at all?

There are so many wonderful organisations and individuals in the UK working their socks off to help our beleaguered pollinators who are already suffering the consequences of habitat loss, climate change, disease and parasites. They need your help and support.  I can only conclude that you are more interested in saving the pesticides industry than you are in saving bees. Nothing else comes close to explaining your stance on this issue. You are playing russian roulette with our pollinators.

Yours sincerely, Brigit Strawbridge

N.B. To anyone reading this blog post: the above is just my own personal view based on what I read, hear and see. I try to keep an open mind and always search for good, for common sense and for reason. I can find none of these in the UK's stance on neonicotinoids.

Others, with a greater understanding of science and politics are better able to convey the shortfalls in the National Pollinator Strategy. Please read the Bee Coalition's report  Policies for Pollinators to gain a clearer understanding of what I am writing about.

Please also read this article by Sandra Bell (Friends of the Earth) - Government must do more to protect our bees 

And check out the work being done by Buglife and Pesticide Action Network


  1. Well said, but the sad truth is that money talks. Bayer even got the National Beekeepers Association to endorse some of their Neonic's. Hopefully if we all keep up the pressure things will change.

  2. Dear Brigit,

    While I respect your views on the politics of neonicotinoids, I think some of your comments on the science of it are a little misinformed. A lot of the research done on the effect of neonics on bees have often used poor methods, been narrowly focused with incomplete (and unrepresentative) datasets. A decision using the 'precautionary principle' at the moment would be difficult, as the science leaves the answer inconclusive, and resorting to more conventional chemistry may be more destructive.

    Further banning of neonicotinoids will lead to pest managers resorting to alternative active ingredients that might be even worse for our biodiversity- pyrethroids and carbamates may harm a whole suite of beneficial insects (natural enemies and detritivores as well as pollinators) and cause pesticide resistance. The reason neonics were thought to be 'safe' for beneficials, is because they are seed coated (with the a.i being transported to all parts of the plant) and not sprayed. Although there is some evidence that small concentrations in nectar and pollen is affecting the navigation (and therefore foraging) of bees, this research is in it's infancy, there may be coping mechanisms that we are not aware of yet and the overall affect on colony health and fitness are unknown.

    I hope this clears some things up for you.


    (Sources: I am a PhD student working on pollinator ecology, and I did my masters project on sub-lethal effects of neonicotinoids on bumblebees)

    1. Hello Chris,

      Many thanks for your response and for your comments. You clearly know a great deal more than I do about the scientific research involved in determining whether, or not, neonicotinoids are harmful to bees. I wish so much that I could enter into an academic discussion with you, but I not well enough informed to be in a position to do this.

      I have been reading research about the effects neonics have upon bees for well over a decade, and it all seems, to me, to be pointing in one direction; i.e. that they are harmful to bees and other wildlife. The only research I have seen that dismisses the dangers appears to have been produced or paid for, directly or indirectly, by agri-chem corporations. I am prepared to be corrected on this view.

      I think non scientists, like myself, can only read, listen to and digest what is out there and then make our own minds up about issues like this. I respect what you are saying and am interested in the fact that your research has led you to a different conclusion to the research of other scientists.....but am not convinced enough by your conclusions to change my views on this.

      I am interested to understand why your views differ so much from those of Dave Goulson, Buglife, FoE, The Wildlife Trusts, Soil Association etc?

      Wish you lived somewhere closer to Dorset so I could meet you and try to understand more about this extremely complex issue!

      Kind regards,


    2. P.S.... I am equally concerned about the use of pyrethroids and other insecticides, herbicides etc that are harmful to wildlife. I don't have the answers, but in my view the way we currently 'feed the world' is completely unsustainable and something needs to give before we reach the stage where our soil is so depleted of minerals and micro-organisms that nothing can grow in it.....and biodiversity is so compromised that entire ecosystems begin to collapse...

    3. Hi Brigit,

      Thanks for your speedy response! Whilst neonic research did seem to point in one direction for the years leading up to the ban, a lot of these paper have been heavily criticised for the methods they used, like not using field-realistic doses, or dosing one bee it's entire daily neonic exposure in one go (rather than smaller doses throughout 10 foraging trips within a day). This is explained better in a couple of papers (links below!). Some papers from universities (not funded by chemical companies) have dismissed the links, but these don't receive quite as much press attention or publishing power.

      Both non-scientists and scientists can keep with research, but both groups often read findings from new research and take it at face value. One recent lab-based neonic study had several prominent scientists voicing their opinions, some criticising the methods and questioning the implications (see link). My 'sitting on the fence' view on neonics isn't an uncommon one- I've met a lot of scientists in ecology that share my view, as do Rothamsted Research who have a balanced article on their website (link!). I hope I can convince you that there is some credibility and potential to the other side of the neonic story! Chris.





  3. I am with Brigit's stance on this. We, as custodians of this little planet cannot stand by and wait for more 'inconclusive' evidence to surface and to say a ban may lead to more harmful chemistry being used is a ridiculous argument. I am convinced that the continued use of harmful products in the food chain is associated with the large Pharma industry whose tentacles permeate not only ministerial pockets but public perception of risk. Let's put a continuing hold on the use of such products until proven to be safe not waiting for them to be proven to cause harm!

    1. I agree with you John that the argument that 'a ban on neonicotinoids may lead to more harmful chemicals being used' is not a good reason to continue using neonics (which are almost certainly harmful to bees and other wildlife) whilst we wait for conclusive evidence....

    2. I don't really agree with your view on this John- we should really make decisions based on hard scientific evidence, and opinion in the scientific community on this isn't anywhere near close to unanimous. It is actually an intelligent view that the alternative chemistry to neonicotinoids are more harmful. Pyrethroids and carbamates are broad-spectrum pesticides, meaning they harm everything in the agri-environment... bees, other insects, birds, molluscs etc. And because these are sprayed onto the crop rather than coating the seed, the effects of contamination of the drift can be far-reaching. I really hope that someone is weighing up the environmental risks of neonics compared with their alternatives, as I only know of one study that has compared the two..