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Honeybee Shortage Threatens Crop Pollination across Europe

Posted by feww on January 9, 2014

Sent be a Member, Edited by FIRE-EARTH

More than half of Europe lacks enough honeybees to pollinate crops: Research

Pesticide use and disease are causing exponential loses in the number of honeybees across Europe, especially in the UK, according to a new study.

The researchers say Europe has a deficit of about 13.4 million colonies, which amounts to seven billion honeybees. UK has only about a quarter of its total honeybee requirement.

“We face a catastrophe in future years unless we act now,” said Prof Potts from the University of Reading, who a co-authored the report.

“Wild pollinators need greater protection. They are the unsung heroes of the countryside, providing a critical link in the food chain for humans and doing work for free that would otherwise cost British farmers £1.8b to replace.”

europe honeybees supply-demand -uni of reading
Percent supply of honeybees relative to demand – EU. Source and copyright: University of Reading, England. Map edited for brevity by FIRE-EARTH Blog.

Biofuel Before Food

The current EU renewable fuel directive dictates that 10% of transport fuel must be sourced from renewable sources by 2020.

The directive, backed by generous subsidies, has led to explosive growth in the area of biofuel crops including sunflowers, soybeans and rapeseed.

“There have been big increases in lots of countries with oilseed rape,” said lead author Dr Breeze from the University of Reading.

“In Greece in 2005, there were a few hundred hectares grown, but since then it has exploded because they can get biofuel subsidies for it.”

The increase in the production of biofuel crops requires more fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, not to mention massive amount of energy for farming, conversion to biofuel, and transport, the environmental consequences of which are beginning to surface.

Disconnect between agricultural and environmental policies across Europe

“There is a growing disconnection between agricultural and environmental policies across Europe,” said Potts.

“Farmers are encouraged to grow oil crops, yet there is not enough joined-up thinking about how to help the insects that will pollinate them.

“We need a proper strategy across Europe to conserve wild bees and pollinators through habitat protection, agricultural policy and farming methods – or we risk big financial losses to the farming sector and a potential food security crisis.”

Agricultural Policies Exacerbate Honeybee Pollination Service Supply-Demand Mismatches Across Europe
Copyright Tom D. Breeze et al.
Published by, January 8, 2014.


Declines in insect pollinators across Europe have raised concerns about the supply of pollination services to agriculture. Simultaneously, EU agricultural and biofuel policies have encouraged substantial growth in the cultivated area of insect pollinated crops across the continent. Using data from 41 European countries, this study demonstrates that the recommended number of honeybees required to provide crop pollination across Europe has risen 4.9 times as fast as honeybee stocks between 2005 and 2010. Consequently, honeybee stocks were insufficient to supply >90% of demands in 22 countries studied. These findings raise concerns about the capacity of many countries to cope with major losses of wild pollinators and highlight numerous critical gaps in current understanding of pollination service supplies and demands, pointing to a pressing need for further research into this issue.

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