The latest development in the impact of these pesticides is covered on this post on Simplebees.
A little background: neonics are powerful, broad-spectrum pesticides which affect all insects, also worms and aquatic life. They persist at significant levels in soil for years after application. For several years they were used “prophylactically”, ie as a routine precaution whether they are needed or not, in many countries on many crops. They did indeed kill the crop pests, but also a lot of other things, like worms. About two years ago the EU banned several types of neonic but the UK government fought this ban. The public debate focuses on bees – a high profile insect which most people like – and the evidence whether this non-target species is affected is hotly contested by the pesticide manufacturers, who spend a lot of money lobbying the government on this matter.
Many beekeepers are against neonics but the main UK beekeeping organisation, the British Beekeepers Association, which speaks for 20,000+ conventional beekeepers, is sitting on the fence. Ironically, this gives the minority of natural beekeepers such as the Natural Beekeeping Trust a lot more media visibility, as we tend to be strongly anti-neonic.