Published in New Scientist on 03/10/2015.
Beekeepers are not surprised that the current moratorium on neonicotinoid insecticides in the European Union has actually increased the oilseed rape yield this year in the UK (N.S.15 August, p24). Farmers have become lazily addicted to chemicals in the mistaken belief that having no insects is better than having any, even pollinators.
There is a case to be made that the “open field trials” carried out by the crop protection industry underestimate the negative effects of pesticides on pollinators in the real world. An open field area treated with neonicotinoids may be as little as 2 hectares: bees, if not contained will range over 3000Ha. Work at the National Agriculture Research Centre in Islamabad in 2007-2008 compared oilseed rape yields of plants in cages with honeybees with those in cages without them. Honeybees increased yield by 80%.
Only banning neonicotinoids will ensure that the benefits of restraint will accrue to all. The moratorium on their use in the EU should be made permanent, not lifted as has happened in Suffolk as an “emergency” measure.