The Recent Arctic Blast Brings a Lifeline for Bees

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March 09, 2021

Special Report by Colleen McDuling – Science Correspondent

Bee on Apple Blossom. Photograph Copyright © Colleen McDuling

In a previous report (January 28, 2021), it was noted that the UK government had allowed the use of one of the bee-killing neonicotinoids on sugar beet crops. Thiamethoxam was given emergency authorization as a measure against the aphid-borne Virus Yellows Disease which affects sugar beet and leads to considerable crop losses.

The news was met with outrage from environmental groups, animal rights groups and conservationists. Greenpeace initiated an online petition that garnered almost 300,000 signatures. The UK government was under threat of legal action.

Now, in an about-turn, the government has withdrawn its permission, at least for 2021, to use thiamethoxam, saying that the projected infection of sugar beet crops by Virus Yellows Disease was only around 8%. This does not meet the threshold for use.  

Apparently, the recent arctic blast which plunged many parts of the UK into sub-zero temperatures and wide-spread snow and ice killed off the aphids which carry the Virus Yellows Disease.

This is indeed good news for bees (and other pollinators) whose populations are under immense threat from the use of agrochemicals, particularly the neonicotinoids. These neonicotinoids have led to a marked decline in bee populations. Bees are vitally important pollinators of not only crops but also of the general flora that are a part of the biodiversity of the Earth.

The Guardian reports that the chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, Dr Doug Parr, asserts that there is growing evidence against the use of neonicotinoids and strongly suggested that this be the government’s “last dalliance with these bee-killing chemicals”.[1] 

Neonicotinoids are highly detrimental to pollinators, other invertebrates, aquatic life in rivers, streams and lakes, and they pollute and degrade the soil. Biodiversity is brought into serious decline. And in the prevailing situation of climate change, global warming and accelerated extinction of species, these chemical pollutants are to be discouraged at all costs.  

[1] ‘Bee-killing’ pesticide now will not be used on UK sugar beet fields; Mattha Busby for The Guardian;