Newsround From The BeeKeepers' Quarterly

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Campaign seeks to prevent the illegal poisoning of animals

A new campaign to stop the poisoning of animals, including bees, has been set up as a result of the findings of the Wildlife Incidents and Investigations Scheme (WIIS) which is operated by MAFF.

As every beekeeper will be aware, the use of agricultural pesticides can pose a risk to bee colonies if they are not used with care and in accordance with the label instructions. The Pesticide Safety

Directorate (PSD), an executive agency of the MAFF, and the National Bee Unit of the Central Science Laboratory, are work-ing together in order to highlight the work being done by both parties to reduce these risks and to remind bee-keepers of the schemes and services avail-able to them.

In the UK, before pesticide products can be marketed and used, approvals must be given by Ministers to ensure that their uses do not result in unacceptable risks to human health, wildlife or the environ-ment in general. Within MAFF the responsibility for the assessment of these risks falls to PSD and approvals are grant-ed under the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 (as amended). These regulations govern the use of pesticides in this country and place statutory duties upon spray operators to ensure that all reasonable precautions are taken to pro-tect the health of human beings, crea-tures and plants and to safeguard the environment. Guidance on how opera-tors can meet these requirements is avail-able in the statutory Code of Practice for the Safe Use of Pesticides on Farms and Holdings (available free from MAFF Publications Tel 0645 556000), but it remains the duty of the operator to assess a situation and ensure that conditions are suitable for spraying safely.

In addition, the Code of Practice details further precautions which operators must take to ensure that bees are not affected by pesticide spray. These include liaising with beekeepers, giving adequate warn-ings, displaying notices and if appropri-ate, using ‘bee friendly’ products. The risk to honeybees will have been taken into account as part of the assessment of the environmental effects, initially carried out by PSD. Products that pose a high risk to bees will be labelled as such. However, during those times of the year when bees are at risk or when the operator decides to use a pesticide as ‘high risk’ to bees, they are advised to inform the beekeeper or to make contact with the local spray liaison officer (contact names are avail-able from local beekeeping associations).

It is most important that operators follow the label instructions closely and ensure that they do not spray where bees are for-aging, ie when crops are in flower. This last instruction is clearly marked on the product label, but spraying crops in flower or when weeds are present, contin-ues to be a key problem identified in bee poisoning incidents.

The success of the approval system depends to a great extent on an effective feedback mechanism that monitors use of approved pesticides. In order to monitor the effects of pesticide sprays on bees, the PSD co-ordinates with the WIIS. The scheme is primarily concerned with gath-ering information from beekeepers and spray operators about the effects of the sprays. It does not exist purely as a means of enforcing the safe use of pesticides,  though successful prosecutions have been taken against spray operators who fail to comply with the law. The information gathered during a field enquiry is fed back into the regulatory system and can lead to a product approval being reviewed or revoked entirely if it is unsuitable or there are concerns over safety.

Beekeepers can be proactive and really helpful in assisting with collecting this data. If you suspect that your bees have been killed as a result of the use of agri-cultural pesticides, you are advised to con-tact either the National Bee Unit (01904 462515) or the Farming and Rural Conservation Agency (Freephone 0800 312600). The incident will be investigat-ed, samples of your bees can be analysed for pesticide residues and you will be informed of any action that is taken. Any information that you supply will be wel-comed and may assist in the formulation of more bee friendly products.

During 1998, the WIIS investigated 43 sus-pected bee poisoning incidents and of these, 16 involved pesticides. One partic-ularly interesting incident from the previ-ous year has resulted in a research project being commissioned by MAFF to investi-gate the potential differences in toxicity between bumblebees and honeybees to certain pesticides. The incident was inves-tigated after a beekeeper noticed an unusually high number of dead bumble-bees on a field of flowering oil seed rape.

The field had been sprayed two days ear-lier with a tank mix of alphacyperme-thrin, carbendazim and iprodione but no honeybees had been affected. A sample of the dead bees was collected and analysed and found to contain a small residue of alphacyermethrin which is thought to have caused their death. The incident has been recorded as being a result of an approved use of pesticides, but as a result of the affect on bumblebees, studies have been commissioned.

‘Killer bees’ under pressure

In South Africa, the African bee, Apis mellifera adansoni, continues to be threatened by the Cape Bee, Apis mellifera capensis, leading to the com-plete destruction of many colonies where the two types live side by side. According to Madeleine Beekman of Sheffield University, the Cape worker honeybees, which are being transported northwards and out of their own unique territory, "invade the nests of adosonii and start laying eggs.
The adansoni bees get con-fused
and think that their a re multiple queens, so they kill their own queen and the colony usually dies". The adansoni bees, renown throughout the world for their ability to defend their nests from the largest of predators are, however, unable to deal with the Cape bees, which commonly drift from hive to hive. (New Scientist Vol 166 No 2234)

Green burial site amoungst the heather

The renowned beauty spot of Brimham Rocks, in NorthYorkshire, was recently featured on Radio 4 (Saturday, 29th August, ‘Open Country’) and listeners learned how the area was being used as ‘Green’ burial site. The deceased could be buried in shrouds or card-board coffins and the relatives and friends could take part in all the proceedings including digging the grave, organising and conducting a service and the placing of a boulder or small cairn over the complet-ed grave. Whilst it is important that the site, a conservation area, is not changed ecologi-cally, graves have to be dug deep enough so that organic matter doesn’t enrich the poor soil and, during inter-ment, even the top soil is replaced at a lower level. A befiting resting place, per-haps, for beekeepers, who like the wild and restful beauty of this rugged area and where bees forage amongst the stretches of purple heather.


For farmers and growers - how to be bee friendly

- is the title of a full colour A2 poster given away free in a recent issue of ‘Crops’ magazine. The poster is spon-sored by the makers of ‘bee friendly’ insecticides such as Aphox and gives the contact numbers (‘Who do you buzz?) of spray liaison officers in England, Wales and Scotland. The poster informs farmers that a minimum of 24 hours needs to be given to beekeepers of intended spraying and also gives some guidelines on how to make both spraying and margins of fields both safe and attractive for pollinating insects. Hopefully, farmers will pin the poster up in their chemical stores and refer to it at the appropriate time.

Parliamentary Question– Honey and GM pollen

The response to a written par-liamentary question tabled by Joan Ruddock MP has con-firmed that honey, containing pollen from genetically modi-fied crops, may be sold unlaw-fully in the UK and through-out the rest of the European Community.

Commenting on the presence of GM pollen in honey, Ms Ruddock said: "No matter how small the quantity, there is a very impor-tant principle at stake here, which should not be missed.

Beekeepers across the UK want to be able to offer the public a pure and natural product. The presence of GM pollen in honey is an unwant-ed additive, outside the con-trol of the producers, and potentially jeopardises their livelihoods and the industry as a whole."

Written answer - Hansard, Tuesday 16th May 2000: Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when, and on what terms, EU marketing consent was given for honey containing geneti-cally modified pollen. (121699)

Ms Stuart: The European Commission, in response to questions from the European Parliament, has advised that honey containing trace amounts of pollen from genet-ically modified crops is not classed as a novel food, and may therefore be lawfully sold throughout the Community.

Work carried out by the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, a report of which is available in the Library, indicates that the amount of genetically modi-fied material in honey is likely to be extremely small, at least no more than 0.00000000003g to 0.000000005g in a 500g jar.

All GM crops intended for deliberate release in this coun-try, and in the rest of the European Community, have to be thoroughly assessed for human and environmental safety before they are allowed to be planted. This assessment includes safety implications of any exposure to pollen through ingestion or inhala-tion from the air, or as a result of it landing on any other crops.

New website for beekeepers

Northern Bee Books, the pub-lishers of the BKQ, are in the process of establishing a World Wide Web site - - for the benefit of beekeepers and oth-ers interested in apiculture.

Readers of the BKQ are asked to contribute to this site by adding information or appro-priate links so as to make it an exciting world wide resource on beekeeping. Please send data to the web master, Steve Turner, by email, on a PC disk or as a Word document or PC*.txt.

XXXVII Apimondia 2001 -Beekeepers meet in Africa

For the first time, the Apimondia International Apicultural Congress will take place in Africa, the location being Durban, South Africa.

The main Congress themes will be:

Beekeeping Economy - local and international trade in bee products

Bee Biology - role of race char-acteristics in beekeeping

Bee Pathology - diagnosis and control of varroa disease, a new pest in South Africa

Melliferous Flora and Pollination - bee flora and pol-lination: apicultural resources

Beekeeping Technology and Equipment - appropriate tech-nology for professionals and enthusiasts

Apitherapy - the clinical appli-cations of apitherapy

Beekeeping for Rural Development - beekeeping against poverty: achieving bee-keeping extension.

The Congress will take place from 2nd - 6th September 2001 and there will be pre and post Congress tours so that vis-itors will have the opportunity to get a true feeling of the country. For further details contact:

APIMONDIA 2001, Conference Planners, PO Box 82, (66 Queen Street), Irene, 0062 South Africa.


Tel. +27 (0) 12 6673681, Fax + 27

(0) 12 6673680 Email:


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