Professor David Goulson and his research group from the University of Sussex have been studying the link between pesticides and the decline of bumblebees.
Bumblebees have a large role in producing the food we eat by feeding on and pollinate flowers. “Our members were adamant that we needed to address the pesticide issue because they thought they were poisoning bees,” Goulson said. “I have to admit I was sceptical to start with. I wasn’t convinced that we’d find very much.”
Despite Goulson’s reservations, his research in 2012 indicated that bumblebees exposed to pesticides suffered a 85% reduction in the production of queen bees compared to the control colonies.
The number of flying insects has fallen by three-quarters in 27 years. This staggering statistic is one of the reasons Gouldson began lobbying for reform in policy surrounding pesticide, he said: “When the science shows that our environment is in increasing danger we have to act.” Gouldson has held talks in the Paris Senete, the government of Ontario and the US Congress. The government of Ontario has since passed new regulation which reduces the use of insecticides by 80%.
Dave Gouldson continued: “It’s my duty to hold governments to account and to keep badgering them until they do something. Scientists should be prepared to stand up when they think government has made the wrong decision, and say so. If we don’t do it, who will?”
“Insects are at the heart of everything. They pollinate most of the crops we grow – they pollinate more than 80% of wildflowers. They help recycle nutrients. They are predators of pests. If we lose insects, life on earth will collapse.”
“It’s nice to feel that we have achieved something, but the attention has become very focussed on neonics. If they are just replaced by something else and the new chemicals are just as bad then we’ve achieved absolutely nothing.”
Neonoics, or Neonicotinoids, are insecticides that are often used on cereals and sugar beat. The European Union have banned the use of Neonics on plant that are attractive to bees but they are yet to been banned for other plants.