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The European Union and Pollinators

The European Union and Pollinators

Bees in Decline



Over the past 10 to 15 years, beekeepers have been reporting unusual weakening of bee numbers and colony losses, particularly in Western European countries including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

In May 2012, as part of its strategy for tackling declining bee numbers, the European Commission allocated 3.3 million euros to support 17 Member States carrying out surveillance studies aimed at gathering further information on losses of honey bee colonies.

EU framework

In 2010 the European Commission issued a Communication on Honeybee Health, which clarified the key issues related to bee health and the key actions that the Commission is taking to address them.

EFSA's activities

In 2009 EFSA launched a project to assess bee surveillance systems in the EU, and to collate and analyse data and publications related to honey bee colony mortality across Europe. The Agence Francaise de Securite Sanitaire des Aliments (AFSSA, forerunner of Anses) set up a consortium of seven European bee disease research institutes to answer the call for data and a literature review. The subsequent report Bee Surveillance and Bee Mortality in Europe, made a number of recommendations to improve surveillance as well as identifying consensus across the EU on the multifactorial origins of the decline in bee numbers. It also helped to shape the Commission's strategy for tackling the decline in bee numbers across Europe, which was clarified in a key communication on honey bee health published in 2010.

In February 2012 the Pesticides Unit reviewed the risk of thiamethoxam to honeybees, as requested by the European Commission, on the basis of new information submitted. Thiamethoxam is a member of the neonicotinoid group of insecticides, which some studies suggest could be a contributing factor to bee colony losses. The use of neonicotinoids is restricted in Germany, Italy, France and Slovenia. (Read more) or read risk assessments for clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam.

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

(ApiNews 2013)

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Conservation Groups



European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):

EFSA evalaution of DEFRA report on bumblebees and seed-treated canola

Published DEFRA report on bumblebees and seed-treated canola

No Decision on Bee-Harming Pesticides in Europe (New York Times, 2013)

EFSA identifies risks to bees from neonicotinoids (2013)

Conclusions on the peer reviews of the pesticide risk assessments for bees for the active substances: clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam

Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of post-approval data submitted for the active substance thiamethoxam (2012)

Statement on the findings in recent studies investigating sub-lethal effects in bees of some neonicotinoids in consideration of the uses currently authorised in Europe (2012)

Assessment of the scientific information from the Italian project "APENET" investigating effects on honeybees of coated maize seeds with some neonicotinoids and fipronil (2012)

Scientific Opinion on the science behind the development of a risk assessment of Plant Protection Products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp. and solitary bees) (2012)

Inventory of EFSA's activities on bees (2012)

Interaction between pesticides and other factors in effects on bees (FERA 2012)

Bee Mortality and Bee Surveillance in Europe (Submitted to ESFA 2009)

International Commission for Plant-Bee Relationships Bee Protection Group:

10th International Symposium: Hazards of pesticides to bees (Romania, 2008)

11th International Symposium: Hazards of pesticides to bees (The Netherlands, 2011)

Risk assessment for honey bees and pesticides - recent developments and 'new issues' (Thompson 2010)

Behavioural Effects of Pesticides in Bees - Their Potential for Use in Risk Assessment (Thompson 2003)

Industry Consulting Groups:

Bee health in Europe - Facts & figures (Opera Research Center)


Conservation Groups:

Environmental Risk Assessment for Honeybees: State of play and Future Proposals (European Beekeeping Coordination)

The impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on bumblebees, Honey bees and other nontarget invertebrates (revised version) (Buglife: The Invertebrate Conservation Trust 2009)

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation


European Parliament:

Existing Scientific Evidence on the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees (2012)

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on Honeybee Health (2010)

European Union and UK:

An assessment of key evidence about Neonicotinoids and bees (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 2013)

Effects of neonicotinoid seed treatments on bumble bee colonies under field conditions (DEFRA 2013)

EU Commission Takes Steps To Suspend Bee-Toxic Pesticides (Beyond Pesticides 2013)

Neonicotinoid insecticides and bees: The state of the science and the regulatory response (DEFRA 2012)

Directives: Commission Directive 2010/21/EU of 12 March 2010 amending Annex I to Council Directive 91/414/EEC as regards the specific provisions relating to clothianidin, thiamethoxam, fipronil and imidacloprid (European Union 2010)

Criticizisms of EFSA report:

Insecticide 'unacceptable' danger to bees, report finds: Campaigners say the conclusion by the European Food Safety Authority is a 'death knell' for neonicotinoid pesticides (Carrington 2013)

Reports spark row over bee-bothering insecticides: Pesticide manufacturer brands risk assessment 'hurried and inadequate'. (Cressey 2013)

EFSA shows high risks for bees from neonicotinoids; Commissioner Borg to immediately withdraw these bee killing pesticides from the market (PAN Europe 2013)

Food Authority EFSA's bias on bee decline and pesticides (PAN Europe 2012)




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Last modified on May 11, 2017