Professor Pat Willmer of the School of Biology, has addressed a key international meeting of experts discussing the controversial issue of bee health. Prof Willmer, a leading expert in the area, spoke at the meeting – which was organised by the Biochemical Society, British Ecological Society and the Society for Experimental Biology – earlier this month.
A key issue at the summit is that of modern insecticides known as neonicotinoids which have been banned for two years by the EU. In contrast the UK Government initially rejected making the same decision but has now adopted the two-year moratorium on the use of the chemicals.
Prof Willmer explained that while agro-industries and chemical companies claim that there are no real negative effects on bees, scientific researchers have shown effects on bee longevity, foraging, learning, communication, size, reproduction, and immunity.
She said: “The two sides as yet cannot agree, and all were represented in London, along with bee-keepers, DEFRA, and conservationists. My role as the invited plenary speaker was to give a broader view on all the current drivers of bee declines (including not just honeybees -where the public debate has been largely focussed – but also bumblebees and solitary bees), and to discuss where the problem of insecticide use might fit in to this broader picture of pollinator decline.”