New law should keep honey bees pollinating: North Bay Nippissing News

By Roland Cilliers     Read article here

PARRY SOUND – It’s a tough time to be a honey bee.

Colony collapse disorder, parasites, a particularly harsh winter and infections have laid waste to many a previously healthy colony and led to government attempts to solve the problem. Here in Ontario, the province is working to pass a new set of rules by the 2016 agricultural planting season that would reduce the use of seeds treated with the neonicotinoid-pesticide believed to be bad for the bee.  

The government has set the goal of an 80 per cent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed. 

Cathy Crowder, president of the Muskoka - Parry Sound Beekeepers Association, said even though large-scale agriculture isn’t present in the area the move is still expected to be good for local honey bees.

“Improving pollinator health is not a luxury but a necessity." 
- Minister Glen Murray

“We don’t have a lot of cash crop kind of growing here, but there is the plants bought at Home Depot and Walmart and all that - we don’t know what it is they are using to spray in the green houses where they’re grown,” said Crowder.

 A report released earlier this year by the environmental group Friends of the Earth Canada showed that more than half of sampled ostensibly bee-friendly plants at Home Depot, Walmart and Lowe’s garden centers contained high levels of the pesticide. 

Neonicotinoid’s are particularly dangerous as they tend to cause problems for pollinators even in small quantities. They also tend to persist for long periods of time.

“They’re systemic and they stay in the ground and because it’s on the seed it’s on the plant and therefore on the pollen and the nectar so either way in some way, shape or form it gets back to the colony,” said Crowder.

“If the bees bring it back to the hive it can stay in the wax. So, for example, last year a lot of our membership had to buy bees elsewhere and by doing that you don’t know what’s in the colony itself.”

Pinpointing the exact cause of the bees’ recent health troubles has proven difficult. Even establishing an accurate number of deaths to determine how bad the situation is has run into controversy with some claiming the increased percentage in bee winter die off is a result of inexperienced keepers accidentally killing their own hives. 

Here in the Muskoka – Parry Sound area, beekeepers did generally report a weaker than average year. However, that could be the result of any number of causes including the difficult winter. 

“Some people didn’t get any honey harvest and some people, like us, got more than we thought because of the way the weather was. However, we didn’t yield as much as last year. I know for a fact up Sudbury way they hardly had any honey harvested,” said Crowder. 

What is clear is the health of honeybees, and pollinators in general, are crucial to agriculture and thus the economy. 

Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, called the health of these animals a ‘necessity.’

“Improving pollinator health is not a luxury but a necessity. Pollinators play a key role in our ecosystem and without them, much of the food we eat would not be here. Taking strong action now to reduce the use of neurotoxic pesticides and protecting pollinator health is a positive step for our environment and our economy,” said Murray

The government had earlier reported that Ontario farmers have taken a number of steps to reduce harm to pollinators. They say there has been a 45 per cent overall reduction in pesticide use in the past three decades and the agricultural sector continues to work to protect the environment. 

The recent surge in media coverage on the plight of the honey bee has lead to an increase of interest in beekeeping. The Muskoka - Parry Sound Beekeepers Association was contacted a number of times this year by people interested in managing hives. 

Crowder said anyone interested in keeping bees should first check out the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association website at to access a wealth of resources. After that, they can email Crowder at to possibly be connected with a mentor beekeeper in their area.