Recent research has implicated a certain family of pesticide, called neonicotinoids, in large-scale bee losses observed in North America and Europe. New Zealand beekeepers have also given anecdotal accounts of significant losses although, as yet, not to the same extent.
As a result of this research, many environmentalists and bee advocacy groups have called for a ban on new registrations and a reassessment of existing registrations of these common chemicals. They are most frequently used in New Zealand as seed treatments but chemicals in this family are also available as foliar sprays.
Federated Farmers Bee Industry Group (BIG) policy is very much that of extreme caution with these systemic insecticides. The group believes that more research is needed and that at this point there is no credible link between neonicotinoids and hive collapse in New Zealand. For that reason BIG does not promote an outright ban, but does work very closely with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on all applications for new agrichemicals to ensure that any risk to honeybees is mitigated.
That is not to say that there is no danger to honeybees from new-generation systemic insecticides. All pesticides pose a risk, which is why farmers and orchardists need to be aware of the risks that their chemical applications pose and take the necessary steps to preserve the health of the honeybee.
Among other groups, Federated Farmers is active in advising the EPA on requirements to be displayed on the label so the first step should always be to read and follow the label instructions. In addition to any specific label requirements, farmers should avoid applying any agrichemical directly on to plants in flower where bees are working.