Farmers and Bees
BEES AT RISK – PRIOR NOTIFICATION OF SPRAYING
All pesticides, including those used around your homes, are subject to control under the Food & Environment Regulation, FEPA. Anyone offering a service which involves advice, instruction, use or supply of pesticides, should be qualified to an approved standard and be certificated to prove this. This means that if someone says “I am spraying those wasps in that roof” they are liable if they have not carried out a risk analysis under FEPA. If it is not a roof which is under their own control, owned or rented for example, they should be a registered and certificated contractor, whether or not they are being rewarded.
You are affected because the materials used for wasp control will kill most other insects, including bees and they are designed to have a long operating life, whereas most agricultural chemicals have been selected to be neutralised within hours by plant or air breakdown. However, because many colonies of bees fly out to farm crops daily, if the farmer/grower is not aware of bees within flying distance they may not consider warning the beekeeper before applying the crop treatment. The warning system can only work if the beekeeper has identified where the bees are kept to the landowners.
There have recently been numerous changes of Agencies involved in Spray Regulations, so please note that all previous contacts are invalid.
The Code of Practice for using plant protection products recommends that local beekeepers should be informed of the intention to spray 48 hours before treatment when bees are at risk or whenever a pesticide is to be used that specifically harms bees.
Before dealing with the particular issues, I should explain the Chemicals Regulation Directorate’s (CRD) position. In April 2008, the Pesticides Safety Directorate, Defra’s regulatory agency responsible for plant protection products, was transferred to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and in April 2009 was re-named as CRD. The latter change is to reflect a wider role for CRD as an authority covering plant protection products, non-agricultural pesticides such as rodenticides, biocides, and detergents.
The National Bee Unit at Defra’s Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) holds a Register of beekeepers as part of their role in disease control and may be able to help farmers contact beekeepers. The best contact for NBU is the main office, 01904 462510. There is also the email address firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is what action can be taken where spraying has taken place without appropriate notification and adverse effects have occurred, allegedly as a result.
The first option is to use the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS). This operated in CRD’s previous existence in Defra but continues as part of our transfer to HSE. If you have any problems with pesticides please photograph the operator and equipment, note down the time and date, and check for bees in front of your hive for any evidence for losses or damage to colonies. Incidents can be reported to us by the free phone number 0800 321 600 and, if accepted into the Scheme as a possible misuse, are taken on by Natural England (NE) staff from Defra on CRD’s behalf, probably with officers from the NBU. If there appears to be a reasonable prospect of conviction, we will refer the case to HSE Field Inspectors to collect evidence and submit their report to HSE Legal for a final decision on Court action.
There is also the option of contacting directly the nearest HSE offices where field inspectors are based.
Which option is best is likely to depend on individual circumstances. With respect to the Scheme, it is clearly important to obtain bee samples for analysis as soon as possible, favouring early involvement of the NBU. Where there are no fatalities but bad practice is alleged, direct contact with local HSE or the NBU may be more appropriate. We would certainly be happy to assist in this situation; part of our integration into HSE is to develop co-ordination between interested parties and promote consistent and proportionate responses.
Although the Code of Practice recommends the notification of intended spraying where appropriate, there is no specific requirement for this in product approvals. However, users of pesticides are legally required to “take all reasonable precautions” to safeguard the environment and prior notice to beekeepers when bees are at risk from spraying could certainly be regarded as such a precaution.” and the website, BeeBase, may also assist. The Contacts Page on the website includes the list of regional NBU inspectors. In short, while there may be times when some smaller beekeepers cannot be traced if there is no local knowledge, there are several other sources to try.
All pesticide usage is covered by The Food and Environment Protection Act 1981
Head of Enforcement of FEPA regulations is M. J. Oliver Telephone 01904 455738
He is supported by local Health and Safety Executive field officers. Gloucestershire is managed by the Bristol office, which is based in the Government building at Bristol.
Their address is:- The Pithay, All Saints Street, Bristol, BS1 2ND. Telephone 01179 886000.
Please note only ring this number in EMERGENCY. In normal circumstances please ring the Spray Liaison Officer, Roger Houldey on 01452 700271 or 07850 286447.
The current Code of Practice, published this year, still informs spray operators and farmers, that they should give all beekeepers likely to be affected by the application of PESTICIDES, not just INSECTICIDES, at least 48 hours notice of time and date of their operations. However there are chemicals on the market which are being labeled “Bee Friendly”, and some operators think that this removes the warning and open flower restrictions: IT DOES NOT.