Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Wednesday, 20 May 2009 12:27 UK

Call to tackle Scots bee decline


The plight of honey bees has been discussed during a Holyrood debate

Scottish ministers have been warned that failing to tackle falling bee numbers could spell disaster for the human species.

Labour MSP Peter Peacock has urged the government to boost research on the issue and take action by bringing in new policies to help solve the problem.

The registered bee population in the UK has shrunk by between 10% and 15%, but the real number may be much higher.

There are fears a Europe-wide shortage of bees could affect crop pollination.

Mr Peacock, a Highlands and Islands MSP, whose area has been particularly affected by the decline, will make his case to the government during a Holyrood member's debate.

The decline in bee numbers has been put down to a variety of factors, including the destructive Varroa mite and the long-term effect of pesticide use.

'Become extinct'

Mr Peacock told BBC Scotland: "All of these things we need to understand much more because if we don't have the bees, then arguably we as a species are threatened in the future as well."

It has been previously announced that up to £10m, including up to £500,000 from the Scottish Government, is being invested to help to identify the main threats to insect pollinators.

The work aims to increase the understanding of how the problem affects insects such as bees, wasps and butterflies and, in particular whether it is due to climate change.

Dr Ben Darvil, director of the Stirling-based Bumblebee Conservation Trust, welcomed the debate.

He said: "As bumblebees, honey bees and other pollinators are so important to Scotland's economy, we feel that it's brilliant that the Scottish Government is looking closely at this issue.

"Scotland is the last stronghold for the very rare Great Yellow bumblebee and hopefully this provides an opportunity to stop this species from following the three others which have actually become extinct in the UK."

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