Beekeepers in Ontario and Quebec are calling for a ban on a commonly used pesticide they believe is killing their bees.
Europe has already suspended the use of neonicotinoids, which are applied to the seeds of field crops to control insect pests.
Ontario and Quebec beekeepers want their provinces’ agriculture and environment ministers to follow the lead of EU countries and suspend use of the pesticides.
It’s an unusual call for the beekeeper groups, which usually make a point of being apolitical and rarely thrust themselves into the spotlight.
“We’re trying to be as conservative as possible but it’s hard now that we’re running out of options,” said Dan Davidson, a Watford-area apiarist who is president of the Ontario Beekeepers Association.
Beekeepers in both provinces experienced heavy losses this spring and in 2012.
They reported finding dead bees by the handful at the entrances to their hives,
Other bees simply didn’t return to the hives, their keepers suggesting the bees they may have died in fields or lost their ability to navigate back home.
“Our industry cannot sustain these losses. Reduced numbers of pollinators also threaten the viability of our local fruit and vegetable supply,” Davidson said.
Neonics have been in use as a coating on field-crop seeds for more than a decade. But some apiarists are concerned that the coating is getting into plants, water, soil and air instead of sticking to the seed.
The bee associations’ four concerns, said Davidson:
accumulation. A chemical half-life of several years means that repeated application could magnify their effect in the environment.
toxicity to bees. Many bee deaths have reportedly taken place immediately after corn planting nearby.
water solubility. There are concerns that the neonics leach into puddles that the bees drink.
multiplier effect. Neonics might add to the health issues of bees already weakened by mites or winter stress.
The federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency also noted in its report on 2012 bee deaths that most of the bees sent in for analysis showed levels of neonicotinoids and that these levels contributed to their mortality.
It stopped short of saying that the pesticides were the cause of the bees’ deaths.
Industrial giant Bayer Cropscience, one of the two major producers of the pesticide seed coating, actively lobbied the European Union on the issue — saying that properly applied neonicotinoids are safe for the environment and improve crop yields. Read