We all know our bees are in trouble. A third of UK bee colonies have been lost over the last two years and there have been many explanations given for this. There is strong evidence that neonicotinoids - a class of pesticide first used in agriculture in the mid 1990s at exactly the time when mass bee disappearances started occurring - are involved in the deaths.
The evidence against these chemicals is strong enough that they have been banned or suspended in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia - but not yet in the UK.
Neonicotinoids work as an insecticide by blocking specific neural pathways in insects' central nervous systems. The chemicals impair bees' communication, homing and foraging ability, flight activity, ability to discriminate by smell, learning, and immune systems - all of which make them vulnerable. To find out more, click here.
So why are pesticides that have been shown to kill honeybees and are thought to be a contributing factor in the recent dramatic increase in honeybee deaths still being used in the UK?
The Soil Association is calling on the Government to protect our honeybees. Lend your voice to their campaign and sign their petition calling on Hilary Benn, the UK's Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to ban neonicitinoid pesticides with immediate effect.
For more information see the Soil Association's bee briefing
Sign the petition today: www.soilassociation.org/bees.aspx
On a surreal, cyber note, you can ‘tweet' as a bee on Twitter on July 14th, August 5th and September 5th to help raise awareness and generate support for the plight of the bees.
Below are the kind of tweets you can expect to see if you take part in Tweehive, a mass role play by human beings of a 'bee colony' on Twitter, the social networking and micro-blogging service.
FORAGER: The pollen smell is everywhere, it's intoxicating & going to my head & my knees
WORKER: Is anyone else feeling the need to make some new queens? There's something in the air today?
QUEENBEE: I want more me time
HOUSE BEE: I am licking the queen
Okay, it does sound ridiculous but the aim is serious: to raise bee awareness, wonderment, interest, actions - plus generate traffic to bee related sites and resources. Ultimately the intention is to 'create a cultural climate where government and businesses feel they should redouble their efforts, budgets and communications around this issue.'
And another thing: the power of the internet in spreading the word is not to be sniffed at.
To get involved, Tweeters are asked to change their profile picture to a bee and get into character tweeting as a bee fulfilling its role in and around the hive.
On the three allocated days (July 14th, August 5th and September 5th), bee tweeters will play a treasure hunt game on Twitter which includes ‘foraging' for pollen and nectar counter ‘widgets' (flowers) on bee friendly sites.
If you would like to take part in Tweehive, visit www.tweehive.com
Laura Sevier is the Ecologist’s Green Living Editor.