Launch of the BES Sponsored POSTnote on Insect Pollination

Yesterday afternoon saw the official launch of POSTnote 348, on ‘Insect Pollination’, written by the 2009 BES POST Fellow Rebecca Ross. The note summarises the causes and consequences of the declines in UK insect pollinators: a subject that has received growing attention in recent years, as demonstrated by the large audience crowding the seminar room in Westminster.

Chaired by John Penrose MP, the seminar began with a presentation from Dr Liz McIntosh of the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), promoting BeeBase, the Government initiative to register all beekeepers. The ex-President of the British Beekeepers Association Ivor Davis then spoke, pointing at the lack of professional teaching available to beekeepers for the decline in the number of honey bees in the UK – a view echoed by comments from other beekeepers in the room. Whilst welcoming the Government’s pledge to invest £10.5 million into bee research, he expressed concern that it would all be spent on high level research rather than achieving practical, immediate goals.

Dr Simon Potts of the University of Reading then discussed the consequences of pollinator decline. Pollinator services in the UK are valued at around £440 million, or 13 % of the total value of agriculture. As only 10% of this is provided by domestic honey bees, Dr Potts highlighted the economic sense of protecting wild pollinators, at a fraction of the cost that would be incurred trying to replace them. This was theme continued by Dr Claire Carvel of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in her presentation on research into using field margin strips in Countryside Stewardship agri-environment measures to support pollinators. Comments from the floor questioned the practicalities of planting such pollinator friendly margins, for example whether regional eco-types would be considered, and challenged researchers and policy-makers to improve the implementation of these schemes amongst farmers.

Find out more about the BES POST Fellowship: applications for the 2010 scheme will open in February.