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Pollinators

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 62881, tabled on 25 October 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he is taking to improve assessments on the long term effects of pesticides on wild bees and other pollinators.

Answered on

28 October 2021

Linking pesticide usage directly to changes in wild bees and other pollinators remains challenging because of the range of pressures which affect pollinators, in addition to the complexities of assessing and attributing pesticide usage and risk to impacts. In 2019, alongside leading academics, we published evidence statements on what is known, and not known, about the status and responses to pressures and management of pollinators, including in relation to pesticide use.

We have funded research into the exposure of honeybees to pesticides through analysing pesticide residues in honey samples from across the country and using metabarcoding to understand how honeybees are exposed to these pesticides. We expect the results of this work to be published soon. We are also currently funding research looking at how we could develop our monitoring to better understand the effects of pesticides on pollinators, as well as routes of exposure.

Furthermore, Defra is developing a Pesticide Load Indicator which takes account of both the chemical properties of pesticides used and the weight applied. This uses pesticide usage data, ecotoxicity and environmental data to better understand how the pressure from pesticides on the environment, including bees, has changed over time. Much of this research will be published in 2022.

We also publish an indicator of the status of pollinating insects, which measures how widespread each of almost 400 species is in each year since 1980. It shows long-term decline, but minor change over the short term. Although not yet definitive, there are encouraging signs of improvement, for example the average distribution of wild bees has shown some stability over recent years. We are keeping these trends under review and continue to discuss all these issues with stakeholders, including with our advisory group under the National Pollinator Strategy.