Bees are hugely important pollinators across the agricultural landscape and their value to the horticultural and agricultural industries in the UK is more than £200 million per annum.
Whilst the number of honey bees in the UK is actually on the increase, bee health generally in the UK and many other countries is on the decline.
The major factor in honey bee decline is generally recognised as infestation with the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. In addition to Varroa there are a number of viral and fungal diseases that are also damaging bee colonies throughout the UK, as well as a decline in suitable habitats.
Some have expressed concern about the potential for insecticides to have an effect on bee health. To avoid impacting bees it is important to follow stewardship guidelines when using crop protection products.
Guidelines for using insecticides
Insecticides can beput into two broad groups:
Group 1: Those that need especially careful stewardship to ensure no harm to bees (organophosphates, pyrethroids, some neonicotinoids)
Group 2: Those which are not labelled as harmful to bees (thiacloprid, Acetamiprid)
For group 1 products:
- Remember to Bee safe Bee careful - leaflet available to download here
- To protect bees and pollinating insects do not apply to flowering crops when actually in flower. Do not apply when flowering weeds are present. Product must not be applied to plants in flower or plants that are being actively visited by honeybees or bumblebees.
- Check with beekeepers for location of hives; British Beekeepers Association (England), Welsh Beekeepers Association, Ulster Beekeepers Association, Beekeepers Association of the UK.
- When spraying is permitted, do so at a time when bees are not actively foraging: very early morning or in the evening as bees forage less with the temperature below 10oC
- Take care to prevent drift towards non target areas (eg. hives in fields, beetle banks, hedgerows, conservation headlands etc.)
- Avoid tank-mixing with triazole fungicides, if treating flowering crops
- Give local beekeepers at least 24 hours notice of spraying. It is a good idea to keep their contact details close to hand.
For group 2 products:
- These pose no risk to bees when applied according to the label and can be applied to flowering crops, or crops containing flowering weeds. Even with such products however best practice would be not to apply while bees are actively foraging.
- Can be mixed with prothioconazole-containing fungicides when used on flowering crops of oilseed rape.
- Excellent Integrated Pest Management (IPM) profile.
- Use the best available application technique, which minimises off-target drift.
- If unsure use best practice guidance for group 1