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To bee or not to bee?

November 26, 2010 2:40 PM

South East England's Euro MP wants the EU to support the beekeeping industry, as too many bees are dying early and there are fewer beekeepers across the UK.

Bees in the UK and across Europe have been plagued in recent years by the double whammy of increased death rates and fewer beekeepers. Its a real 'bee crisis'.

At the European Parliament Catherine Bearder today voted for a resolution calling for more action to step up the fight for Europe's bees.

Catherine Bearder said, "Europe must address the problem of bee deaths. Quite literally, life on earth depends on it!"

"It isn't just about honey. Without bees pollinating plants, plantlife and crops will be threatened. The food the world depends on to survive will not exist."

"Our agriculture and biodiversity depend on these little insects we must find a way to save the bee. We need co-ordinated action across Europe in the field of research, information sharing, veterinary treatment, and the recruitment and training of young beekeepers."

"62% of land in South East England is agrucultural and we have many beekeepers across our counties. We need to encourage more people in our region to try beekeeping and I hope that Europe will support them."

"Bees are really important for the South East and I will do what I can to make sure they survive."

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee currently lists seven species of bumblebee with "priority" status under the UK's Biodiversity Action Plan: the great yellow bumblebee, brown-banded carder-bee, moss carder bee, red-shanked carder bee, large garden bumblebee, short-haired bumblebee and shrill carder bee.

Evidence of a connection to intensive agriculture is robust, with quantitative local surveys in southern Britain finding that bumblebee density and species richness are both generally lower in the more intensively farmed areas than in some open semi-natural areas. Some bees' habitats can also be adversely affected, as cropped grass severely affects the survival of surface nests. Pesticides (and some herbicides) may also be implicated, though this is unproven, and their effects are difficult to discriminate from other factors.