Buglife on Bees

17:55 Friday 21st January 2011
Drivetime BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY BURROWS: Let’s talk bees. Scientists may have the answer to why the number of bees is in the decline. Earlier I spoke to Matt Shardlow. He’s from the Peterborough-based organisation Buglife, who told me that the amount of bees have been falling for sometime. (TAPE)
MATT SHARDLOW: Yes we’ve seen declines not only in domestic honeybees, but we’ve seen declines in wild populations of bumble bees. moths, of hover flies and of butterflies. So generally our pollinator populations are disappearing from the countryside. Which means that there’s less insects around to pollinate the food we eat, and to pollinate wild flowers as well.
ANDY HARPER: So does this new American research then offer a little insight as to maybe what’s happened to the bumble bee?
MATT SHARDLOW: Yes. This American research and some French research which is published, which is on the same sort of issue, shows that there’s a relationship between these toxic pesticides and diseases, such that when honey bees are fed amounts of this pesticide that you’d found in pollen and nectar in plants that had been treated with chemicals, those bees are then much more likely to get disease, die and become ill. So these pesticides aren’t directly killing the bee. They’re not dropping down dead instantly. But they’re getting affected. So they’re becoming more lethargic, they’re not foraging well, they’re not able to breed very successfully, and they’re getting ill with disease. So we’re starting to see how these chemicals can interact with the environment and interact with pollinators to contribute to the big decline we see at the moment in the health of insects in the countryside.
ANDY HARPER: What would you like to see done?
MATT SHARDLOW: We want to see the Government put in place a ban on the risky uses of these pesticides. So that in the first place means using them on plants on crops where the pesticide not only affects the leaves, which protects the plant from pests eating the leaves, but also then goes into the pollen and nectar, and is then used by helpful and beneficial invertebrates, and can poison and damage them. So we want Government to ban it from that use.
ANDY HARPER: Shoudl I be surprised that the Americans and the French are both interested in bees? I thought it was just the British that loved the humble bumble bee.
MATT SHARDLOW: Oh there’s interest in bees all over the world at the moment, and there’s even international agreements to try to sort out the problems that people are having with pollinator populations. And obviously the loss of wild flowers in the countryside that we’ve seen since the Second World War is a really big issue that we need to turn around. But what we can’t have as well is putting poisons over 25% of the cropped area of Britain that may well be having a big impact on insect populations in addition. (LIVE)
ANDY HARPER: Matt Shardlow, that was, from Buglife