Burgessville beekeeper convinced pesticides responsible for his bee losses

John VanBlyderveen, owner of Oxford Honey and Supplies just outside of Burgessville, estimates 95% of his hives will die before spring because of the effects of pesticide poisoning.

“I’m of the opinion we need chemicals. I understand everything in nature has its own checks and balances. Farmers need to protect their corn from predators, and we need to protect our bees from predators,” he said. “But I don’t think one segment’s protection should be at the cost of another – and that is our extreme problem.”

Losses are expected during winter, but in a normal year the loss should equal about 15% of a beekeeper’s hives.

Losses have been recorded at more than double the norm – and sometimes triple or quadruple – for the past five years, Vanblyderveen said.

Over the years, beekeepers blamed the mysterious bee deaths on a myriad of different causes, including weather, mites and even magnetic fields caused by newly erected cell phone towers.

“We didn’t even perceive corn planting as a problem in the beginning. We didn’t realize how much of this stuff was being spread around,” he said.

Concern came to a head last spring when approximately 200 incidences of massive bee kills in yards across the province were reported. The massive bee deaths happened at around the same time corn farmers were planting. It’s believed bees are being exposed through dust, which contains insecticide residues generated during the planting of treated corn seed. Read more.