We haven't been short of studies linking bee deaths to insecticide exposure, with neonicotinoid pesticides leaving bees more vulnerable to parasites and impacting their ability to make new queens and navigate effectively.
Nevertheless, regulators have been slow to act decisively. (Temporary suspensions of neonicotinoid use showed bee populations recovering rapidly.) Now The Guardian reports that a parliamentary inquiry in the UK has accused European lawmakers of turning a blind eye to insecticide-related threats to bees, despite mounting evidence of real harm:
"European regulators seem to have turned a blind eye to data on the danger that one of the world's biggest selling pesticides could pose to bees and other pollinators," said Joan Walley MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC). "Evidence seen by the committee raises serious questions about the integrity, transparency and effectiveness of EU pesticides regulation. Data available in the regulators' own assessment report shows it could be 10 times more persistent in soils than the European safety limit."
The insecticide in question is called imidacloprid and is manufactured by Bayer. Prof Dave Goulson, an ecologist at the University of Stirling, said: "The data show unequivocally that imidacloprid breaks down very slowly in soil, so that concentrations increase significantly year after year with repeated use, accumulating to concentrations very likely to cause mass mortality in most soil-dwelling animal life."
Unsurprisingly, given their ongoing charm offensive on beekeepers, a spokesperson for Bayer questioned the validity of some of the studies the inquiry referenced.