House of Commons Library

The UK bee population

Published Friday, November 10, 2017

This pack has been prepared ahead of the debate to be held in Westminster Hall on Tuesday 14 November 2017 from 4.30-5.30pm on the UK bee population. The debate will be opened by Alex Chalk MP.

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•There are over 250 species of bee in the UK: 25 species of bumble bee, 224 species of solitary bee and 1 honey bee species.

•Pollinators such as bees are estimated to be adding up to £600 million per year to the value of UK crops through increased yield and quality.

•The UK’s biodiversity indicator for pollinators (which uses bees and hoverflies as the key indicator species) has been assessed as showing long term decline since 1980 but as remaining stable in the short term.

•A number of factors such as disease, habitat loss, climate change and pesticides are thought to have contributed. No single factor seems to be responsible with the importance of different factors varying with the environmental setting and whether bees are managed or wild.

•Pollinator strategies and plans bringing together actions to address this decline are in place across the UK in England (2014) Wales (2013) and Scotland (2017) and there is an All Ireland Pollinator Plan (2015). These strategies aim to provide a framework for a range of stakeholders to work together with government to enhance habitats for bees and other pollinators as well as fill gaps in data and research.

•The National Bee Unit provides support, health inspections and information to bee keepers in England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) runs the Bee Health Inspectorate.

•There has been a great deal of focus on the sub-lethal impacts of certain neonicotinoid pesticides on bees. EU restrictions have been in place on the use of three particular neonicotinoids since December 2013 and the UK Government has recently announced that it is supporting the Commission’s plans to extend these restrictions on the advice of the Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP). Library briefing Bees and Neonicotinoids (July 2017) provides further background.

•The Government has said that unless the scientific evidence changes, the government will maintain these increased restrictions post-Brexit

Commons Debate packs CDP-2017-0226

Authors: Nikki Sutherland; Emma Downing

Topics: Agriculture and environment, Biodiversity, Food, Nature conservation

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