European Union governments passed a near-total ban earlier this morning of the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoor crops due to their impact on pollinators.
It means farmers will not be allowed to use the chemicals to protect any field-grown plants, including East Anglia's staple sugar beet crops, when the new measures come into force following a phasing-out period of around eight months.
The ban, championed by environmental activists, covers the use of three active substances - imidacloprid developed by Bayer CropScience, clothianidin developed by Takeda Chemical Industries and Bayer CropScience as well as Syngenta's thiamethoxam.
Emi Murphy, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: "This a major victory for science, common sense and our under-threat bees".
Scientists have many theories on the reason for the decline - from diseases and parasites - but pesticide exposure has gained the most criticism as studies continue to point to its impact on the bees' health.
The ban on neonicotinoids, approved by European Union member nations today, is expected to come into force by the end of this year and the chemicals will now only be allowed to be used in closed green houses.
Hartfield also warned that the ban may lead to farmers decreasing the amounts that they grow of certain crops, a phenomenon which he has already observed in some cases. "Banning these toxic pesticides is a beacon of hope for bees", said Antonia Staats at Avaaz.
"Finally, our governments are listening to their citizens, the scientific evidence and farmers who know that bees can't live with these chemicals and we can't live without bees". However, there may be legal hurdles to overcome before the new ban can go into effect, Reuters reported.
Over the past several years, there's been an alarming drop in bee populations and there were fears it would start to seriously affect crop production since bees are necessary for the spread of pollen and reproduction. But there are other, better ways to support pollinator health - such as increasing pollinator foraging options or natural habitats and more efficient control of the varroa mite - than banning substances that have helped farmers effectively manage a broad range of significant pests.
Two other neonicotinoids - acetamiprid and thiacloprid - are deemed to be less of a threat to bees and are not included in the ban, despite concerns from some conservation groups and the results of some recent studies.
"What is needed is a move towards truly sustainable farming".