It seems that the government has had second thoughts. The permission to use neonicotinoids on sugar beet this year has been withdrawn. The official reason is that the recent cold snap has affected the aphids. The number of aphids has fallen below a critical level and as a result the government has decided that neonicotinoids are not to be used this year. It is good to see that government policy is being "driven by the data not the dates."
However it is possible that next year the aphid population may not be affected by the cold and government decisions may not be driven by Honey Bee data. We must, for the sake of the bees and all the other pollinators under threat, make certain that permission to use neonicotinoids is not granted in Spring 2022.
But reading is not enough. We have to make certain that any decisions the government make are well informed. It is for this reason I am drawing your attention to the draft National Action Plan on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. There are download links on the page and it is asking for our response - and our deadline for response is February 26th.
The document raises several questions for us to think about including, on page 21, asking us how DEFRA could increase transparency to explain the decisions they have come to. This is an important issue as can be seen by the lack of information available regarding the evidence for the recent Sugar Beet/Neonicotinoid derogation.
I ask you all to download and read the document and pass back your comments by February 26th
On a lighter note - the other night we watched "Mr Holmes" on the BBCiPlayer. It is partly about Sherlock Holmes - which is why we chose to watch it - but bees and bee keeping play a very important element in the story. It stars Ian McKellen and is an interesting plot beautifully acted. It is on iPlayer until the end of the month or you can rent it from Amazon.
It is early days but we were promised a "Green Brexit" by Michael Gove Indeed Michael Gove has promised us that "the right decisions, can enhance our natural environment."
Well one of the first environmental changes made by this government since full Brexit has ben the issue of an emergency authorisation for the use of neonicotinoids on sugar beet seeds - just 8 days into the New Year.
There are conditions attached to this emergency authorisation:
Seeds treated with the neonicotinoids can only be on the market for 120 days.
Seeds can only be used when there is a risk of serious drop in yield due to beet yellow virus.;
The emergency authorisation will be reviewed after three years
There are proposals attached to this emergency authorisation:
The applicant has proposed a reduced level of application to the seeds
The applicant has proposed the use of a virus-incidence forecasting programme so that the dressing is only used when "economic impacts would be incurred".
The applicant has proposed a "stewardship scheme" to address risks to pollinating insects.
In a section about bees attention is drawn to the following points:
Sugar beet is a non-flowering crop and therefore of less interest to bees
There is a risk that bees will visit flowering weeds between the beet plants. This will be prevented by the use of herbicides.
Neonicotinoids are persistent in the environment so it is proposed that no flowering crops be grown on the plots for 22 months and
No oil-seed rape to be planted on the same plot for 32 months.
The paper describes the risk to mammals and birds from eating the seedlings is "acceptable" and the chance of birds eating the pelleted seed was minimal.
This does seem to be a restricted use of neonicotinoids but is it the thin end of the wedge?
Why is it being allowed at all on a crop which produces a product the government are doing their best to discourage us from consuming.
Neonicotinoids are known to harm bees and their use is something we should be aware of.
These are early days for this "Green Brexit" but it is something all of us concerned with the natural environment should be watching very closely.
If you are looking for something more uplifting may I suggest you look at the lectures advertised on the Diary Dates page.