The decline of pollinator populations poses a real threat to global food production and to insect and plant diversity. Our teams have been working across a number of exciting research and development projects to address issues caused by insecticides, manage risk to pollinators and enable pollinator-benign land management. And we’ve been delivering transformational outcomes.
The BeeSafe Toolkit
The global pesticide market, worth $75 billion in 2017, was facing a significant decline in the discovery of new and better pesticides due to increased complexity and costs. An insecticide can take up to 10 years to achieve registration.
Our research set out to find why managed bee pollinators, worth more than £650 million to the UK economy each year, are very sensitive to certain pesticides but highly tolerant to others. The tools we developed are now being used to facilitate and accelerate the registration of insecticides that are safe to bees.
Working with industry partner Bayer, our researchers have transformed how insecticides are developed and deployed by enabling the rapid screening for and development of low toxicity insecticides, enabling prediction and avoidance of harmful pesticide-pesticide interactions and supporting registration of bee-safe pesticide combinations.
The BeeSafe toolkit is at work in the industry, screening and speeding the development of new bee-safe insecticides. It’s inexpensive and quick to use and can be employed all-year-round.
The BeeSafe toolkit has also enabled Bayer to achieve regulatory approval in Germany for a new insecticide that offers benefits to both pollinators and oilseed rape production.
By carrying out extensive research into bee behaviours, we’ve developed a suite of innovative ecological models for use by regulators, policy makers, the agrochemical industry and land stewards. As decision support tools, our models are already delivering clear benefits for pollinators, improving European regulation, reducing risks and guiding land management.
Our innovative ‘BEEHAVE’ ecological models of managed and wild bee colony dynamics uniquely enable large scale and long-term assessment of the multiple stressors on bee populations. We also researched loss of habitat, increased pesticide use, invasive species and disease to develop the science needed to underpin national pollinator policy.
The three new, complex and biologically realistic models of bee colony behaviour, BEEHAVE, Bumble-BEHAVE and BEESCOUT, can be applied in any landscape and are available to all, from European regulators and global agrochemical companies to individuals such as farmers and beekeepers.
The impacts have been many: we’ve changed how EY regulators assess risks to bees and set protection goals. We’ve changed practice and perspectives in the global agrochemical industry, informing and improving plant protection risk assessment. We’ve transformed policy and practice to boost pollinator populations and deliver pollinator-friendly land management plans for more than 900km² of the UK.
Migrant hoverflies: the key to maintaining essential ecosystem services
Our scientists discovered that an incredible four billion hoverflies migrate to and from Britain every year, confirming their importance to both pollination and controlling crop pests.
Our studies also found that numbers have been stable over the last 10 years with hoverflies pollinating many billions of flowers and producing larvae that
eat up to ten trillion aphids – a key crop pest across Europe.
The research reveals that hoverflies are Britain’s second most important pollinators after bees and especially important to wildflowers, soft fruits and brassica crops.
At a time when many beneficial insects are in serious decline, the hoverfly will be key to maintaining essential ecosystem services.