Latest bee deaths fuel ongoing debate: The London Free Press


Spring bee deaths in Ontario dropped dramatically last year — proof that voluntary safeguards on a controversial pesticide need not be made mandatory, says an industry group.

But bee deaths during the summer escalated — proof Ontario’s plans to restrict use of neonicotinoids can’t come soon enough, pollinator advocates insist.

A release of federal bee mortality numbers Thursday marked the latest clash in an escalating debate about the science for and against pesticides commonly used to coat corn and soybean seeds to prevent bug infestations.

The new numbers — part of a background package of information to be presented today during a meeting of a federal bee health group — show a 74 per cent drop in die-off during spring planting in 2014.

They also suggest that die-off in mid-season, after field crops were planted, increased 60 per cent over the previous year.

A more comprehensive perspective on data from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency is due at today’s meetings. In the meantime, though, Pierre Petelle, vice-president chemistry of CropLife Sciences, said the numbers show safeguards such as dust-reducing seed treatments and deflectors on planting equipment work. “Clearly, we’re on the right track. Everything that’s been done so far has been done on a co-operative, collaborative, voluntary approach,” he said.

Petelle said the province’s new rules are unnecessary and hasty.

Let’s delay this July 1 (implementation) date — that’s an arbitrary date — and have a truly consultative discussion,” Petelle said.

Beekeepers say that’s nonsense.

“It’s a systemic, persistent pesticide,” said Tibor Szabo, who heads the Ontario Beekeepers Association.

It would make sense that beekeepers reported fewer deaths in spring 2014 because many hives had already been killed off.

He said many beekeepers also moved hives to safer spots before the 2014 plant, away from where they might be exposed to the dust of spring planting. But by the time bees began foraging, impact of neonics in puddles and on flowering plants began to take effect.

He said the seed companies’ strategy is to “deny, delay and distract” and he called for more civility among the two groups. “There’s no future in some people’s agriculture killing other people’s agriculture.”

- - -