Colonies of bees are dying off in massive numbers, all across the province.

Federal inspectors are in Grey County this week, getting a first-hand look. Pesticides are being blamed, a ban isn't likely. Honeybees were active in Dave Schuit’s Saugeen Country Honey bee yards near Hanover today. But with a closer look Schuit can see signs of trouble. There are dead bees scattered around the hives. He says they look like they have been poisoned.

“I believe they are being poisoned by the neonicotinoids, the neonics are in the water, they are in the ground. The bees are drinking it up from the water,” he says. 

Schuit's losses have been mounting; he has lost half of his bee colonies in the past two years and he is not alone. Beekeepers across the province have been watching their colonies die. Earlier this year Health Canada released the results of laboratory testing. Neonicotinoid pesticides were found on 80 per cent of the dead bees tested. 

The pesticide is highly toxic to Bees even in tiny amounts. They are used to protect corn, soy and canola seeds from insects. Bee keepers want the chemical banned.

“We cannot continue if they do not ban the neonicotinoids,” he says. “It’s a slap in my face. If I go out of business it’s just part of the game.”

In July the province created a bee health working group made up famers, scientists, beekeepers and chemical industry representatives to look into crisis.

At the group's last meeting they voted against the idea of banning the pesticides, but they also decided there should be tougher controls on where and when the chemicals are used, and farmers should have access to premium seed varieties that have not been treated with the pesticides.

Health Canada is continuing with its review of the impact of neonicotinoid on bees. Inspectors with Canada's Pest Management Regulatory agency were in Hanover today collecting samples of bees, plants, soil, and honeycomb for testing.

Les Eccles works with the Ontario Bee Keepers’ Association’s technology program. He says beekeepers have not given up on a ban but that decision will likely be made at the federal level.

“There is no question it is affecting the beekeepers, the industry, and pollinators,” he says, “but whether that risk is acceptable is what the discussion is about right now.”

The province’s bee health working group still has another meeting planned before their final recommendations are forwarded to the provincial government.