Giving bees a break

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The European Union has recently decided to ban three of the world’s most widely used pesticides for 2 years, as they are linked to colony collapse disorder in bees. It wasn’t a unanimous decision, or even enough countries to achieve the weighted majority needed to ban the pesticides outright, which is why the issue was passed to the executive European Commission.

Predictably, the manufacturers of the pesticides claimed that the ban would result in billions of Euros in lowered or lost crop yields. However the EC presumably decided to adopt the precautionary principle and act now, even though the cause of colony collapse disorder is still somewhat uncertain, probably because, according to this UN report on bee colony collapse disorder (CCD), various insect and animal pollinators perform services for the global economy worth about US$203 billion per year.

And here is where I get a bit controversial, so put on your shouty faces: it doesn’t really matter how severe CCD is, nor what causes it, because as with climate change, we may not have the leisure to wait until the crisis is obvious to everyone.

What really matters is that we need to stop taking our ecosystem for granted and start taking care of it, and that requires that we keep an open mind and be more willing to step lightly on the planet. Which includes giving the bees a break from the toxins, and other suggestions from the UN report linked above.

[Featured image  Honeybees grooming by Alex Ford, Victoria, age 17]


  1. Absolutely agree. My ‘shouty face’ is directed at those people who think we can blithely go on abusing our environment, without consequences. We need to start viewing ‘Spaceship Earth’ as the only vessel on which we KNOW we can live, and start respecting it, and how we treat it.

    Well said.

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you agree. I know I may sound like a dippy hippy, but we (the race) really do keep using up the planet as if we’ve got another one to go to.

  2. A lot of issues like these seem to be related to risk management; is it worth risking the extinction of bees and the catastrophic results it would bring? Or is best to play it safe and act now on something that might be slightly controversial? I would take minor political controversy over catastrophic extinction event.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Nick. Yes, it is a matter of the precautionary principle in one sense, and I for one would prefer to play it safe and take what is really quite moderate action, rather than risk catastrophic colony collapse. And given that a lot of the controversy seems to be generated by the companies that are selling the insecticides, it becomes a matter of whose voice to trust: is it the scientists, who have evidence on their side, or the companies, who have a vested interest in claiming the scientists are wrong?

      1. Yes, that’s one that always makes me laugh, partly because it’s so true!

        But thanks for reminding me – I might point to that one in my next post. 🙂

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