Save the Bees, the Birds, and the Planet from Neonics

Julie Lopez

This blog was written by Julie Lopez, the Digital Campaign Organizer at Nature Canada.

The Save the Bees and Save the Birds movements have gained mainstream attention in the past few years, but governments, environmental groups and industry have been discussing the impact of pesticides on humans, plants and wildlife species for decades.

Silent Spring, a groundbreaking book by Rachel Carson, was published in 1962 and highlighted the dangers of DDT for humans and wildlife alike. She presented evidence that linked DDT to health problems in humans, and severe declines in bird populations. This ultimately led to the ban of DDT for agricultural uses, and, since then, the many species that were severely impacted by its use, most notably peregrine falcons and bald eagles, have made dramatic recoveries.

Now, four decades later, neonics (Neonicotinoids) have taken centre stage due to the harm they are inflicting upon bird and bee populations around the globe.


Numerous studies have shown that various neonicotinoids are contributing to the die-off of honeybees and other pollinators, like bumblebees. Four years ago, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found that songbirds given small doses of imidacloprid lost weight and lost their sense of direction, preventing them from migrating south. Most recently, the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph and Environment and Climate Change Canada showed that the harm caused by the use of neonics does not limit itself to bees or small birds.

Photo by Carla Radke

These scientists found nine detectable levels of neonicotinoids in the livers of 40 wild turkeys in Southern Ontario, thus raising the question about the breadth of the impact that these pesticides have on all wildlife species.

In late April of this year, the European Union banned the use of three prevalent neonicotinoid that have caused harm to bees and birds. The 28 member states decided to build on a limited ban in effect since 2013 and completely ban their use by the end of 2018.

Most recent to join the movement is Costco, a grocery store chain that has 600 stores in the United States and Canada. In May of 2018, Costco took a stand on insecticides, urging its producers to stop using neonics. They are now asking their suppliers of fruits, vegetables and garden plants to phase the use of these insecticides, and are seeking to partner with suppliers who share their commitment to pollinator health.

As well, 232 global scientists published in the scholarly journal Science  on June 1, 2018, to “greatly restrict” the use of neonics around the world, writing an open letter to policy makers demanding action around neonics due to the threat they pose to pollinators and ecosystems. (Science magazine, June 1, 2018).


The Canadian Government is currently reviewing the use of neonics. Considering that even ingesting a small amount of neonics can cause songbirds to be impaired and unable to migrate, and has lead to the die-off of bees, this issue requires immediate action from the Canadian government.  Thanks to the thousands of Canadians that have signed our petition to ban neonics. If you have yet done so, please consider signing our petition today!

Support Nature Canada as we urge the government to follow the European Union’s lead and protect all our wildlife species from harmful chemicals!


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