Protecting British Pollinators: Preventing the Decline of Bees in Britain

Event Date: 
17 Oct 2018 -
10:15 to 16:30
Type: 
Other Events

The bee population in Britain is declining at an alarming rate, posing a significant threat to British agriculture. Data from Friends of the Earth revealed that wild honey bees are nearing extinction whereas managed bee colonies have declined by 53% between 1985 and 2005 (April 2012). Modern farming and the use of pesticides has destroyed much of the plant diversity and hedges needed for thriving bee populations, with intensive farming practices linked to 50% of the decline in population numbers (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology 2016). In addition to environmental damage, the loss of bee populations is also likely to incur significant economic damage - £510 million of annual crop sales in the UK are pollinated by bees.  Replacing bee pollination with hand pollination would cost farmers an extra £1.8 billion annually. Moreover, it is estimated that consumers would consequently suffer, as fruit and vegetable prices would increase up to 50% (University of Reading 2012). 

The Government has supported a series of measures to combat this decline. For example, the updated 2013 Common Agricultural Policy attached ecological conditionality to the granting of subsidies. These conditions include farmers growing a variety of crops, and creating wildlife friendly Ecological Focus Areas on 7% of their land, including wildflowers and hedges (EFSA 2018). The UK has also committed towards implementing substantial restrictions on neonicotinoids after Brexit. The UK has since 2014 been implementing the National Pollinator Strategy to support and encourage bee preservation. Positive progress has been made, with more hives being moved in an effort to encourage targeted pollination than before. 

Despite this, there is concern that the Government needs to demonstrate a firmer commitment to restricting farmers from using bee-killing pesticides. For example without  a nationwide regulatory body to replace the European Chemicals and Health Agency after Brexit, the UK risks agri-chemical companies flaunting regulations related to pesticide production. There is also a significant knowledge gap to be filled, as the UK will no longer have access to REACH, the EU’s programme which informs policy making on pesticides. The Government must also decide how to incentivize bee-friendly farming without EU support grants. 

As the UK negotiates its position post-Brexit, the country will have to deal with these challenges in order to protect its bee population. This symposium is an opportunity for local authorities, environmental organisations, conservation practitioners, beekeepers, and other key stakeholders to discuss measures of reversing declining bee populations.   

Speakers include Matt Shardlow, Chief Executive of Buglife and Roger Patterson, Specialist, the British Beekeepers Association.

Delegates will:

  • Assess current legislation effecting UK pollinators and discuss measures for delivering a robust protection strategy
  • Discuss the economics of maintaining healthy pollinator numbers
  • Analyse the Government’s National Pollinator Strategy and what more needs to be done
  • Discuss the use and effect of pesticides in British farming, and examine the impact of forthcoming EU legislation
  • Consider ways of increasing information and awareness for the protection of vital pollinator species
  • Consider the ways that stakeholders such as farmers, scientists, beekeepers and local authorities can best work to protect bee species
  • Evaluate the challenges facing bee conservation efforts post-Brexit
  • Share best practice in bee friendly farming

There is 20% early registration discount off the standard delegate rates (subject to type of organisation and terms and conditions) for bookings received by the 5th September 2018.