An EU vote on a proposal to ban insecticides said to be harmful to the bee population has been inconclusive.

As a result the European Commission is expected to proceed with the two-year ban, although the deadline for it to take effect has been delayed until 1 December.

The failure by member states to agree means that the issue will go back to the European Commission's weekly college meeting, perhaps as early as Wednesday.

The Commission is then expected to press ahead with the two-year ban it originally proposed.

The decline in the number of bees is thought to be dangerous to Europe's agriculture sector since they are needed to pollinate plants and crops.

A majority of EU member states supported the ban at today's vote, but under the EU's system of weighted votes, it did not constitute a qualified majority vote.

The vote was taken at official level, involving national experts and diplomats, at an appeals committee in Brussels, under the auspices of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

Fifteen member states supported the ban, eight voted against and four abstained, according to a statement from the European Commission.

Having voted no during the vote in March, Ireland abstained during today's vote, while the UK - which abstained at the last vote - voted no.

A number of other countries - Bulgaria, Estonia and Germany - also abstained having voted no in March.

In effect, member states were voting on the same European Commission proposal introduced in 2012, albeit with a number of minor changes.

These included the extension of the deadline by which to implement the ban, and an invitation to all member states to come forward with any new scientific evidence on the use of the insecticides.

A compromise paper put forward by Germany on Friday to allow member states much more discretion in applying restrictions on the insecticides - known as neonicotinoids - did not, in the end, form part of today's vote.

A report published by the European Food Safety Agency in January concluded that the pesticides posed a "high acute risk" to pollinators, including honeybees.

Officials say that there is limited use of neonicotinoids in Ireland.

The food and pharmaceutical industry argues that the scientific evidence is inconclusive and that a ban on the pesticides could harm food production.

Environmentalists have long argued for a ban.