The notification system – launching in September, to coincide with autumn spraying – is being promoted by the Voluntary Initiative (VI), who have worked closely with the Crop Protection Association (CPA), the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) and the National Farmers Union (NFU). The development of the site has been funded by the CPA.
“We’ve been impressed by the interest the Hertfordshire pilot has generated” says Nick von Westenholz, CEO of the CPA.
He continues: “It’s really important that farmers and beekeepers sign up to the system ahead of the launch. The more that use it, the more useful it will be. If we can generate enough interest in each region across the UK we can certainly help farmers meet best practice in the spraying of insecticides.”
Following the September launch, BeeConnected will operate on a very simple, yet efficient, two-way communication process: with a few simple clicks, farmers across the UK will be able to identify their fields and inform local beekeepers when they intend to spray an insecticide in particular fields. Similarly, beekeepers across the UK will be able to plot the location of their hives, whether permanently or temporarily placed.
“Feedback from beekeepers in Hertfordshire has been positive. They found the process to register the location of hives straightforward and believe that the system will be incredibly useful,” said Tim Lovett of the BBKA.
“Beekeepers simply receive a notification telling them when a spray event is happening nearby and what type of insecticide is being used, which helps them decide what action to take. BeeConnected is a much more direct way for beekeepers to communicate with farmers, and our members will certainly be using it.”
Andrew Watts, who manages 2500 hectares in Hertfordshire, was one of those involved in the trial of the website. He says: “The pilot testing was an important process in the development of the website, and farmer feedback should ensure this will be a really useful tool for farmers when it’s launched nationwide. It’s a simple, easy-to-use system that, with just a couple of clicks of the mouse, can notify local beekeepers that I’m planning to spray an insecticide.
“We all have a responsibility to use insecticides responsibly and to protect pollinators. BeeConnected is a simple tool that will allow me to do that, and I’d encourage as many farmers to register now so they can use the system when it’s up and running later in the year.”
Once launched, the website will give farmers the ability to retain anonymity by default but they can choose to communicate directly with their local beekeepers if they wish.
Richard Butler, Chairman of the Voluntary Initiative said: “We’re delighted with the success of the Hertfordshire pilot. Farmers are committed to best practice use of pesticides and protecting pollinator health. This voluntary scheme is a simple tool that supports them in that aim. I’d encourage all farmers to sign up and be ready for the nationwide launch in the Autumn.”
Chris Hartfield of the NFU has been involved with the initiative from the beginning. He comments:
“Current best practice requires farmers to give notice 48 hours before spraying an insecticide, and BeeConnected will provide a far quicker and more efficient method than has been available in the past. Given the success of the pilot we can’t wait to offer this system to farmers across the UK.”
Tim Lovett of the BBKA added: “BeeConnected is based on a proposal put forward by the BBKA to bring spray-alerting into the 21st century. BeeConnected is a timely and hugely important initiative, and I encourage beekeepers across the country to register now in order to take advantage of the initiative.”
The BeeConnected website will launch in September 2016 and all interested farmers and beekeepers are encouraged to register by visiting www.beeconnected.org.uk.