25/06/2013 11:13 BST | Updated 25/08/2013 06:12 BST

The UK Government Must Agree to a Bee Action Plan

Earlier this month it was revealed that a third of all honeybee colonies in England died over the winter. Shocking news - but it's not just honeybees that are in crisis.

There are over 250 bee species in Britain, and many are in serious decline. Wild honey bees are nearly extinct and solitary bees are declining in more than half the areas they've been studied. Some species of bumblebee have been lost altogether.

Last month new research by the University of Reading, commissioned by Friends of the Earth's Bee Cause campaign, revealed that a dozen of the UK's most iconic bees, including our rarest solitary bee, the Large Mason Bee, are in serious jeopardy.

Bees are not only a much-loved part of our countryside, they are also crucial for pollinating many of our food crops and plants. The impact of their continuing decline on our gardens, farms and orchards could be immensely damaging.

This is a threat that retailers are starting to seriously consider. Quentin Clark, Head of Sustainability and Ethical Sourcing, at Waitrose warns "We rely on bees and other pollinators to successfully produce many of our crops. Bee decline is therefore more than a business risk; it's a potential risk to food security."

In some parts of the world people are already being forced to hand-pollinate crops. In China's Hanyuan County, where native bee populations have been wiped out by a combination of loss of their natural habitat and intensive farming, local people have been forced to hand-pollinate pear trees.

Hand pollination is not only time consuming, it's costly too. Last year it was estimated that it would cost the UK £1.8 billion every year for farmer to hand-pollinate crops without bees - 20 per cent more than previously thought.

The need for urgent action is clear - and this is why Friends of the Earth has organised a major Bee Summit in London next week.

The biggest gathering of its kind, this unique summit will bring together for the first time scientists, government officials, MPs, food producers and others to discuss the action steps needed to reverse the decline of all Britain's bees - and indeed all pollinators.

Pressure for the Government to introduce an urgent Bee Action Plan is gathering momentum, and has already attracted massive support. Over 200 MPs, businesses such as the Co-operative and B&Q, the Women's Institute and over 70,000 individuals have already backed the plan.

Earlier this year David Cameron told MPs he knows how important it is to look after bees. The Bee Summit is a golden opportunity to show his Government is prepared to step up to the plate and act.

All eyes will be on bees minister Lord de Mauley when he makes the key note speech at our Bee Summit on Friday. If the Government is truly concerned about the plight of the humble bee he must commit to an urgent Bee action Plan that covers all the causes of bee decline and all our bees.

Failure to act could be catastrophic for our environment, our food system and our economy.


• Take two minutes to join our call for an urgent bee action Plan by signing our petition