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Page last updated at 09:33 GMT, Friday, 11 March 2011
Campaign to ban 'bee damaging' chemicals
Bumblebee collecting pollen from a sunflower
Bees are worth about 200m to British agriculture

An MEP is campaigning for a ban on chemicals he said could be damaging the bee population.

Peter Skinner (Lab) MEP for the South East region said he is "fighting at a European level".

"With food prices at an all time high, bees are hugely important to our local rural economy and environment in the South," he said.

He is campaigning for a blanket ban on neonicotinoid pesticides until the long term effects on wildlife are known.

"There is no plan B if our bees die out," he said. "The loss of revenue and ability to pollinate our own crops could be disastrous."

The British Bee Keepers Association is calling for an urgent review of all the available information about the effects of neonicotinoid compounds.

In January, an early day motion was submitted to the House of Commons to ban the use of all neonicotiniod pesticides in the UK.

A Defra spokesperson said: "The UK has a robust system for assessing risks from pesticides and all the evidence shows neonicotinoids do not pose an unacceptable risk when products are used correctly.

"However, we will not hesitate to act if presented with any new evidence."

Declining bee numbers

Bees are the world's most important pollinating insects and are worth about £200m a year to British agriculture.

Honeybees are the only bees to produce enough honey for us to collect
There are 250 species of bee in the UK consisting of bumblebees, honeybees and solitary bees
Pollination delivers €14.2bn to the European economy
Bumblebees have smelly feet to inform other bees which flowers have already been visited
Source: The Bumblebee Conservation Trust

Their decline in numbers has become a cause of global concern.

"Bee consciousness is vital and we want more people to understand the crucial role bees play in our food chain," said Matthew Oates, The National Trust's advisor on nature conservation.

"We can do simple things like planting bee-friendly plants and flowers to encourage bees into our gardens."

A combination of factors are believed to be responsible including a loss of wildflower habitats and the diversity of plants within them, the use of pesticides and disease - but recent poor summers have also caused enormous damage to honeybees, with a third of colonies lost in 2008.



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