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Widespread crash in UK pollinators

Widespread crash in bees & pollinators

The Soil Association is calling for government to support nature-friendly farming after a new report revealed a widespread crash in bees and pollinators, with an average decline of 25% across all bees and hoverflies since 1980.

Report findings

The report found “evidence of declines across a large proportion of pollinator species in Britain between 1980 and 2013. These overall declines are in addition to the losses that occurred before 1980, noted in previous studies, and are likely driven by a host of pressures known to act upon pollinators, including habitat loss, climate change, and pesticides”. Several declines coincided with introduction of neonicotinoids (now banned) in 2007.

The study looked at where the insects were distributed and not the numbers of insects in each area. So the decline in numbers of pollinators is likely to be a lot higher, in line with global insect crash trends. This study focused on whether species occurred in a km square area across the UK.

Therefore even in the 10% of species that have increased their range, tracking the expansion of oilseed rape, we cannot be confident that numbers aren’t falling in line with the global trend of 2.5% fall in insect mass every year.


The report concluded that what is needed is a more diverse farming landscape, with lots of flower-rich meadows and nesting areas, as vulnerable bee species cannot range far to find these.

Gareth Morgan, Soil Association head of policy, said:

“The crash in pollinators since the 1980s is yet more grim news for British wildlife and is a stark warning that the government urgently needs to support farmers to reduce reliance on pesticides.

"With several of the pollinator declines coinciding with the introduction of neonicotinoids in 2007, the report shows the ban on neonics was right and should be upheld, and echoes last month’s research revealing a steep decline in global insect populations linked to intensive farming and pesticide use.

"The UK urgently needs to transition to a more diverse farming landscape that can support pollinators with more flower-rich meadows and nesting areas, and less reliance on chemicals.

"It’s never been clearer that government needs to support farmers to transition to more agroecological farming, with 50% more wildlife on organic farms and a recent study showing agroecology can feed Europe’s population healthily while phasing out pesticides.”​

How you can help

With one-third of the food we eat dependent on pollination, it is essential we protect our pollinators. Find out why bees are so important and what you can do to help.