My hon. Friend gives me more credit than I am due. I have read widely, but I am not an absolute expert. I cannot answer that question except by saying that that is why we need more research. People used to think that the damage caused by the varroa mite was the reason for population crashes, but the problem is clearly much bigger and must be related in some way to pesticides. The weather also comes into play, but many factors are involved.
I call on the Minister to ensure that everything is taken into account when decisions are made relating to the world’s most widely used insecticide on the world’s most widely managed pollinator and on Europe’s most widely grown mass flowering crop, namely oilseed rape. No one can argue that insecticides are designed to kill insects. They are acute toxins. Bees and other important pollinators are bound to be killed by insecticides targeted at, for example, the flea beetle, which attacks oilseed rape and which farmers want to control. I will outline some of the concerning new evidence.
One study found that bee numbers have not actually been declining where neonics have been applied, but that clever bees are trying to compensate by reproducing more. More eggs were laid, but more worker bees were produced, not the drones that are necessary for breeding, so numbers gradually start to go down. Is the pesticide causing that effect? Is it working on the wild flowers in the hedgerows adjacent to fields? Are the bees being affected?