Bees in Ontario are dying at an alarming rate, and the problem of these collapsing bee colonies was the subject of a big meeting today in Guelph. 

And beekeepers took the opportunity to confront a major pesticide manufacturer.

It was standing-room only at the University of Guelph this afternoon as Bayer CropScience Canada held a symposium to educate the public about the range of issues threatening bee populations.

He says the chemicals have been killing his bees.

“We see neonic residues in my hives and where we see residue levels we see dead and dying bees,” he says, calling it “a highly-problematic situation.”

Studies show neonics are highly toxic to bees, even in tiny amounts. They are used to protect corn, soybean, and canola seeds from chewing insects and are highly effective. But the chemicals are water soluble and accumulate in soils from year to year.

Paul Thiele with Bayer CropScience says the company went to Guelph to open the dialogue between beekeepers, farmers, and the scientific community.

“It’s going to demand a very high level of management and a lot of effort in the research community to find the right solutions for beekeepers and growers,” he tells CTV News.

Manger of scientific affairs Murray Belyk says steps have been taken to reduce pesticide dust during planting and says more research is being done.

“It’s a study that involves beekeepers to collect their data. It will be written up and interpreted by bee keepers that are arm’s-length from Bayer,” says Belyk.

But Bernie Wiehle says the time to talk is running out for beekeepers and concrete action is needed.

“Very simply, we have to limit the use of neonic pesticides, only use them for the short term where it’s needed and quickly transition away from this class of chemicals,” he says.

Health Canada is currently re-evaluating its approval of neonics and the province is looking at ways to limit the use of the chemicals. However, farmers say that could lead to the use of other harmful pesticides.