Following a request from the European Commission concerning the declining health of bees in Europe, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published new guidance for assessing the potential risks to bees from the use of pesticides. Noting that a previous risk assessment for honeybees did not fully account for risks from chronic or repeat exposure to pesticides, or the potential risks to larvae, EFSA said that the new guidance fills these gaps, adds schemes for bumble bees and solitary bees and proposes a new method for assessing whether the potential harm posed to bees from the use of a plant protection product is acceptable. “This method—which gives a more precise assessment of acceptable loss of foragers than the existing approach—should afford greater protection to honey bee colonies situated on the edge of fields treated with pesticides,” said EFSA.

According to EFSA pesticide experts, the attributes to protect honey bees are directly related to colony strength—the number of individuals in a hive—and the scheme for honey bees evidently suggests that it is not acceptable for colony size to fall by more than 7 percent as a result of exposure to pesticides at any time. See EFSA News Release, July 4, 2013.