Finding a way for pollinators & pesticides to work together


RIDGETOWN  - The buzz about the bee die-off and a correlation to neonicotinoid exposure was a hot topic Tuesday in Ridgetown.


The “Bee Aware" panel discussion at the 21st annual Southwest Agricultural Conference focused on findings from recent research into how honeybees and insecticides were coming into contact and where.


“We were really interested in finding out how much of an impact corn planting, specifically, had on the insecticides leaving the field and to what extent that would interfere with the honeybee industry,” said Dr. Art Schaafsma, a field crop pest management professor at the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus.


Schaafsma, along with co-investigator Tracey Baute, a field crop entomologist with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, spent six weeks designing experiments and securing funding for the project in the early spring.


“We were not surprised by the fact that there was a significant amount of insecticides leaving the field as a result of the design of the planters and the way that things are set up,” said Schaafsma. “What we were very surprised about was that the trees adjacent to the field, and the trees near the field, not necessarily adjacent, were very important source of pollen for the bees in the spring.


“We were also detecting insecticide in that pollen that the bees were picking up.”


Dust particles raised during planting were being lifted up into what the researchers referred to as the boundary layer of the atmosphere.


“It's a lateral flow. It's just like getting into a river, just like silt in water, the really fine stuff takes a long time to settle out,” Schaafsma said. “There is enough stuff leaving these fields to create a potential exposure.”


Baute said the discovery of how dependant the bees were on the outlaying flowering trees was a real game-changer.


“We can no longer let the planters' dust be blowing; we need to use deflector kits in some way,” said Baute. “The other being that yes, the lubricant, the fluency agency, does reduce the amount (of dust) by 21%, but that is not enough in terms of levels that are coming off the planter.”


Although the onus has been mostly on crop producers to reduce the risk of insecticides on pollinators, going forward the key to a solution will be communication and compromise, said Baute.


“We're working at getting the funds in place to provide an interactive map online, that producers could look at and beekeepers,” she said, adding it will help both industries understand the interactions between fields and bee yards.


“We are looking at this objectively. We're still trying to determine if a balance can be made in the use of these products and protecting the pollinators,” Baute said. “But at the same time we have to be realistic and know it's not just the growers that have to take some of these steps."