There is no specific legislation requiring farmers to notify beekeepers in advance of any intended use of poisonous sprays and other substances so it is essential that beekeepers liaise with farmers in the localities where bees are kept. It must be remembered that bees are likely to be affected if they venture through areas where spraying is taking place or has taken place, even though not foraging within them. No farmer wants to kill bees and it is well to remind farmers regularly of the bees' presence in the vicinity of their operations. And the beekeeper must do all he or she can to fit in with the farmer's and contractors' timings and commercial requirements. If spray damage is suspected, beekeepers should take a sample of at least 200 dead bees and send it to the National Bee Unit for diagnosis as to the source of the problem.
Can you sue the wrongdoer?
This question came up in the case of Tatton and others v A D Walter Ltd. In this case, bees worked a crop of oil seed rape which was affected by seed weevils, so the farmer applied a pesticide. Although the farmer did not know the particular beekeeper's bees were working the crop, the court took the view that it could be expected that bees would work crops such as oil seed rape and because the farmer had not complied with the guidelines for spraying he was liable for the loss of the bees.