The Co-operative Group has launched a major campaign this week to understand - and reverse - the devastating decline in the British honeybee colony.

Under its new 10-point Plan Bee, The Co-operative Group will make a donation of £150,000 towards honeybee research.

It will place a temporary embargo on eight chemicals thought to be detrimental to honeybee health that are used to grow its own-label fresh produce. And it will also show a preview of a new film on the global demise of the bee to members of group at 40 locations across the country.

“Nature’s number one pollinating machine appears to be breaking down and no one knows for sure why,” said head of social goals at The Co-operative Group, Paul Monaghan.

Plan Bee has been welcomed by the British Beekeepers’ Association, which has been lobbying for £8m of funding to be given towards honeybee research over the next five years. “Bees perform a vital role in the pollination of crops and biodiversity in the UK,” said BBKA president Tim Lovett. “Every effort needs to be made to ensure these insects are not lost from our overall ecosystem.”

The initiative comes a week after Defra announced details of a £4.3m bee rescue package with £2.3m going to the National Bee Unit to identify Britain’s beekeepers and advise them. A further £2m will go to fund bee health research.

The BBKA expressed concern, however, that the £2.3m did not involve new money but funds already designated. The BBKA will shortly set out bee research requiring attention.