Stinging attack on Scotland’s beekeepers

Bumblebees: study revealed harm from neonicotinoids. Picture: PA
Bumblebees: study revealed harm from neonicotinoids. Picture: PA
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A BATTLE is raging inside Scotland’s beekeeping community over a proposed ban on pesticides thought by some to be wiping out billions of bees worldwide.

The UK charity Friends of the Bees has accused the Scottish and British Beekeepers’ Associations (SBA and BBKA) and the Stirling-based Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT) of “greenwashing the truth” about the links between chemicals called neonicotinoids and the decline of bee populations.

In a letter to The Scotsman today, Graham White, spokesman for the Friends, claims beekeepers from the SBA, BBKA and BCT have sided with the pharmaceutical company that produces neonicotinoids – Bayer and Syngenta – to “defend these poisons”.

Mr White wrote: “Members of these charities face a dilemma: do they join the fight to ban these deadly poisons, or continue to serve the interests of the pesticide companies, until every last honeybee, bumblebee, butterfly and bird is dead, or survives only in a glass-cabinet?

“These charities have lost all credibility as conservation bodies.”

Today’s criticism coincides with an urgent review of evidence, launched by Scottish ministers after a damning report by the UK Parliament environmental watchdog concluded that official UK research that failed to find any link was “flawed”.

The study had been cited by both Westminster and Holyrood as a reason not to support European Commission calls for a two-year moratorium on use of the insecticides in the face of growing evidence suggesting they are deadly to bees.

Last month, the SBA voted against a motion calling for it to lobby for a moratorium north of the Border amid concerns that farmers might revert to using chemicals whose harmful affects are undisputed.

The BCT also refuses to call for a moratorium, despite a key study last year by founder Dr David Goulson which revealed that bumblebees fed neonicotinoids produced 85 per cent fewer queens than normal.

Last night, a spokeswoman for the BBKA said: “The BBKA does not wish to see any action taken that may in itself cause damage to pollinators, for example by the inevitable re-adoption by farmers of older superseded and more hazardous chemical agents being re- employed in crop protection.”

Lucy Rothstein, of the BCT, agreed: “Are pesticides bad? Yes, of course they are, but what is the level of harm caused by these chemicals in the field? We believe whatever decision is made should be evidence-based.”