Beekeepers all in a buzz

honey bee

honey bee

Life is hard for a bee, it’s not just all work and no play they also have to deal with parasites, habitat loss, intensive agriculture and countless other threats. So it’s good to have friendly bee keepers who look after them. But beekeepers have become rather upset with the British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) who have accepted endorsement money from agri-chemical companies to display the association logo on pesticides.

The sponsorship deal was first arranged in 2001 and was worth £175,000. There was 4 different pesticides that carried the logo. Unfortunately 2 years later after further research it was found that 3 of the 4 pesticides contained the most dangerous and deadly chemicals for bees.  The pesticides Fury and Contest contained cypermethrin while the pesticide Decris contain deltamethrin.[pullquote]8 years after the evidence that endorsed products are dangerous still have the BBKA logo on them[/pullquote]

10 years on from that deal and the beekeepers are still fuming. At the annual meeting held last weekend bee keepers descended on Stoneleigh Park to discuss the issue.  A motion was passed to end the current endorsements of the products. Some tried to go further and pass a motion that would have prevented the association from receiving any money from the agri-chemical industry in the future but this was not passed.

The British Bee Keepers Association wanted to keep it’s options open to working with the pesticide industry (or plant protection industry as they prefer to call it) but it expects to end the current endorsements in the next 3 months.

The proposal to end sponsorship deals with the pesticide industry was put forward by the Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeeping Association but it was defeated by a substantial number of member votes.

Martin Smith, BBKA President, said: “These overwhelming votes reflects the views of our growing membership and their confidence in the Executive. It allows the BBKA to move on. The four products are of declining commercial importance and the development of new classes of pesticide and application techniques meant that we should review our relationship with the plant protection industry.”

Deltamethrin is a widely used insecticide by agricultural businesses. It is also found in many home insecticide products and also has a use in public health programmes such as mosquito control. It can cause problems though as it is also toxic to beneficial insects and it’s been recorded that use of deltamthrin can cause a drop in pollination as it kills pollinating insects such as bees. It’s also been shown to have negative impacts on aquatic organism such as amphibians. By killing aquatic animals and insects one of the side effects of using this pesticide is an increase in algal blooms if the pesticide is used near water courses.

Cypermethrin is used by farmers to control pests in crops and also to control insect pests that live on the surface of the soil such as cutworms. Although targeted at insects the chemical is also known to be toxic to both aquatic invertebrates and fish if it gets in to water courses.

While I can understand the the need for the BBKA – and other associations – to seek funding to help them in research I find it amazing that 8 years after the evidence that endorsed products are dangerous still have the BBKA logo on them. The products may have been considered safe at the time but there must have been a clause in the endorsement contract to allow the BBKA to have pulled out if new research meant that the insecticides they were endorsing proved to be dangerous to bees.

Research is an ongoing things, new dangers are discovered with chemicals and unforeseen circumstances arise in most industries. I don’t understand how any association or charity could agree to a sponsorship deal over such a long period without inserting a get out clause should the deal bring the association into disrupt. and allowing sponsorship of insecticides that are highly toxic to bees certainly brings the BBKA into disrupt.

It’s good to know that that finally after 8 years of known toxicity to bees the logo of the British Bee Keepers Association will finally be removed from the packaging of these chemicals.

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