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460,000 Concerned Citizens Call for Immediate Ban on Bee-Killing Neonic Pesticides in Canada
Photo by Sandy Nelson
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460,000 Concerned Citizens Call for Immediate Ban on Bee-Killing Neonic Pesticides in Canada

Call for swift action comes as government’s public consultation on neonics ban wraps Nature Canada joined thirteen conservation, environmental health and advocacy groups, along with the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, to call on the federal government to end the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) in Canada, without further delay, as Ottawa concluded consultations on the latest neonic risk assessment on Tuesday, November 13. Since 2013, more than 460,000 people in Canada have participated in campaigns to ban neonics, signing petitions and writing letter to the federal government in support of a timely ban. Thank you to all our supporters who contributed by signing our petition! This week, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency concluded public consultations on proposals to phase out the neonics clothianidin and thiamethoxam in three to five years. In 2016, the PMRA proposed to phase out a third neonic, imidacloprid, in a decision that has yet to be finalized. These reviews concluded the risks from most uses of neonics are unacceptable. While the groups support the federal government’s proposed ban on neonics, they urged the government to accelerate the timeline to protect pollinators, aquatic insects and other beneficial species. An urgent ban is needed to prevent endangerment of the environment. The organizations submitted that the proposed slow-motion phase-out would allow the use of neonics to continue until 2020 or beyond on the basis of a generic PMRA regulatory directive on pesticide cancellations – even though environmental risks have not been shown to be acceptable. This unjustifiable delay would lead to further widespread and preventable ecological damage. The widespread use of neonics has led to pervasive environmental contamination. Scientists point to clear evidence of serious harm to many species and ecosystems. PMRA assessments found clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid in Canadian aquatic environments at levels that are harmful to aquatic insects. Aquatic insects are an important part of the ecosystem, including as a food source for fish, birds, bats, and other animals. Aquatic insects are particularly important for aerial insectivores; species that feed on insects while on the wing. Aerial insectivores are the most rapidly declining group of birds in Canada. The threatened Chimney Swift, Common Nighthawk and Eastern Whip-poor-will stand to benefit as a result of the neonic ban. You can read more about Nature Canada’s efforts to save these important species here. For other coverage of this process, please read the following

Health Canada Proposes Too-long Phase-out of Neonics Harming Birds and Bees
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Health Canada Proposes Too-long Phase-out of Neonics Harming Birds and Bees

[caption id="attachment_37987" align="alignleft" width="150"] Andrea Lesperance, Student-at-Law.[/caption] This blog post was written by Andrea Lesperance, a Student-at-Law for Nature Canada. Health Canada has announced positive but still insufficient action to protect birds, bees and invertebrates from neonicotinoids (neonics) – synthetic nicotine analogues used as insecticides. On August 15, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada announced Proposed Decisions for Consultation on two neonics: Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam. The Special Reviews of these two neonics were initiated based on concerns that they pose risks to aquatic invertebrates. PMRA was “unable to conclude that the risks to aquatic invertebrates was acceptable” from outdoor agricultural uses of Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam. As a result, PMRA proposed cancellation of all outdoor uses of these two neonics on food and feed crops, including seed treatments. This cancellation would take place over a phase-out period of 3 to 5 years—which Nature Canada says is  too long. Further, Clothianidin poses risk to aquatic invertebrates via use on turf and so this use will also be phased-out.  In Canada, neonics are used to control insects on agricultural crops, turf, and ornamental plants. However, neonics are harmful to invertebrates, pollinators and birds.  Environmental groups including Nature Canada are calling for an immediate ban on neonics. Earlier this year, PMRA found that the application of pesticides containing the neonic Imidacloprid adversely affects the survival of bee colonies or solitary bee species. Thus, Health Canada proposed phase-out of uses of the neonic on blooming crops. While the proposed phase-out of Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam is intended to protect aquatic invertebrates, the decision has positive implications for pollinators and birds! Aquatic insects are an important food source for fish, birds and other animals. For more information on the impacts of neonics on bees, birds and other wildlife, see our blog Save the Bees, the Birds and the Planet from Neonics. Aquatic insects are particularly important for aerial insectivores; species that feed on insects while on the wing. Aerial insectivores are the most rapidly declining group of birds in Canada. The threatened Chimney Swift, Common Nighthawk and Eastern Whip-poor-will stand to benefit as a result of the neonic ban. Swallows such as Purple Martins are aerial insectivores which would also benefit from a ban on neonics. Purple Martins are the largest member of the swallow family and they are currently experiencing a decline of about 4.5% per year in Ontario. Learn more about Nature Canada’s Save our Swallows initiative here and here. You can also learn more about Nature Canada’s Purple Martin Project here. Nature Canada and our supporters welcome Health Canada and PMRA’s decision to cancel neonic use but urge them to take immediate action on this issue rather than implement a 3 to 5 year phase out! In fact, 19, 400 people signed our petition asking Minister of Health Petittpas Taylor to entirely ban neonics without delay. An immediate neonic ban would be in line with actions taken by the European Union, which voted to ban Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam by the end of 2018. One approach for Health Canada to take action on neonics is to refuse their re-registration when the current approval expires. Registrations for all 135 pesticides containing neonics approved for use in Canada are set to expire before 2023. Approximately 30 of these registrations will expire by the end of 2019. In our view, there is no reason why PMRA should re-register these neonics once they expire, considering the planned phase out. Nature Canada will be submitting comments on the proposed re-evaluation decisions and our neonic petition to Health Canada and PMRA later this month. Stay tuned for updates! UPDATE, August 29, 2018:  This week, Nature Canada, along with the signatures of 20,000 supporters, submitted a petition to ban Neonics and commentary to the Minister of Health and Pest Management Regulatory Agency expressing concern about the long phase out of Neonic. We will also submit our petition and concerns shortly about the slow phase out of Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam.


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To Bee, or Not to Bee
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To Bee, or Not to Bee

This blog is written by Nature Canada guest blogger Tina-Louise Rossit. World Honey Bee day is not just a day to support our love of honey and bee-pollinated foods…it’s to give awareness of today’s bee crisis and what that means for the rest of us. Read on to find out a little more about these amazing critters and why you should bee grateful for them!

From A to BEE

Bees are tiny insects with 6 legs and 4 wings, and represent a whole lot of species. In fact, honey bees are only a fraction of bee species. Furthermore, the commercial honey bee, or species used to pollinate human food crops, represent even a smaller fraction. However, all bees are social insects relying on a social hierarchy system within a beehive. They are divided into castes with different responsibilities. These are; the queen, male drones, female workers and larvae. The female workers are divided into three more castes in relation to their life stage. A female begins as a nurse, tending to the newly hatched larvae. Then she becomes a guard and food handler and tends to pollen collected, honey-making, building new cells and repairing old ones. And her last stage will be outside, as part of the team to gather nectar and pollen. If there can be an award for hardest working insect, it’s the honey bee since the female workers will literally wear out they wings by the end of their life!

Explanation of Pollination

[caption id="attachment_38187" align="alignright" width="300"] A bee and poppy, captured by Sandy Nelson.[/caption] Pollination is a symbiotic relationship between flowering plants and animals. Flowering plants, scientifically called angiosperms, reproduce sexually, meaning they have male and female parts. The pollen grains contain the sperm, and the pistils contain the ovaries. Once fertilization occurs, seed development occurs, resulting with the fruit. But since plants can’t physically move the pollen themselves, that’s where pollinators come in. For bees, they travel from flower to flower to collect nectar and simultaneously get pollen attached to their bodies. The bee moves to the next flower and pollen grains drop down. The pollens fall into the pistils and fertilize the eggs thanks to the bee. In return, honey bees use the collected nectar for everything they need to survive. Bee food, honey, and the hive itself, all stem from nectar as the secret ingredient. This is why pollination is symbiotic because it is crucial to both parties. Although mammals, birds, bats and other insects have pollinating species, evolution is pretty specific sometimes, and some plants can only be pollinated by specific animals. The honey bees pollinate a lot of plants for human foods. One third to be exact. One bite out of three fruits and vegetables we love to eat, needs bees to survive. Now imagine these honey bees disappear. Here’s a list just to name a few plants that wouldn’t grow so much; apples, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, coffee, cherries, cranberries, almonds, coffee, zucchini, grapes, avocado, and was coffee already mentioned? And if you put honey in your cup of coffee, well that’s a double whammy. Now while we’re still imagining, think about what the earth would look like without a third of its plants. It’s not a lovely sight. [caption id="attachment_38188" align="alignleft" width="300"] A bee pollinating flowers, captured by Ilana C Block.[/caption]

The crisis!

Over the past decade, beekeepers started noticing a very weird phenomenon with their beehives. Their hives were found with all dead bees. Research began to solve the mystery and discovered that these bees suffered from Colony Collapse Disorder caused by toxins. Where did the bees get toxins? If you guessed from humans, you’re unfortunately right. The use of pesticides is an iffy topic. We see the value to protect food plants from harmful bugs and pests, but we don’t need pesticides full of harmful chemicals that kill everything else. For example, we don’t need neonics. Neonicotinoids, or neonics for shorts, are neurotoxins still being used today in pesticides. Once a honey bee consumes it, it affects the immune system, impair memory and learning, disorientate, increase deficiently in larval development, and interferes with gut flora leading to malnutrition. Since all members of a hive eats the same thing from the same source, adding neonics to the recipe will result in Colony Collapse Disorder. So let’s recap, shall we? We have increased use of harmful chemicals in our farmer’s pesticides, which leads to decrease the number of honey bees, which leads to decrease one third of our food, which will lead to a bunch of new unfortunate factors.

I bee-lieve you, now what can I do?

If one bee can do so much, one voice (you!) can also do a lot. The first thing you did was read this article! The first step is always awareness, people need to know what’s going on and how it will impact their lives. Second step is to get more info, good info, that is! Follow sites like Nature Canada that put nature first, to find out and learn more about any environmental topic. Step three, take action! Whether it’s a donation, or a share on social media, or volunteering, everything helps. Two awesome ideas to help honey bees out right away, is to plant more native flowers and buy honey products from your local farms! Two simple acts that will go a long way!
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Bibliography https://www.beesmatter.ca/ http://www.ontariohoney.ca/ http://www.honeybeecentre.com https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee http://bees.caes.uga.edu/bees-beekeeping-pollination/getting-started-topics/getting-started-honey-bee-biology.html

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

[caption id="attachment_37466" align="alignleft" width="135"] Julie Lopez[/caption] 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. [caption id="attachment_37975" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo by Carla Radke[/caption] 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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Busy as a bee
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Busy as a bee

[caption id="attachment_23299" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Valerie Assinewe Valerie Assinewe,
Guest Blogger[/caption] This month’s Nature Canada calendar captures what may well be our planet’s most critical plant/animal interaction - a bee foraging for nectar and transporting pollen. Approximately 80% of flowering plants depend on pollinators to transfer pollen for fertilization between plants thereby facilitating fruit and seed production. Bees are the most important group of pollinators. Let’s take a closer look at these complex and fascinating insects. Where do they live? Bees, like ants and wasps, belong to the order Hymenoptera, a very successful order in terms of numbers of species and worldwide distribution. There are about 1,000 bee species in Canada; they can be found right across the country, excluding the highest altitudes and polar regions. In Canada, as elsewhere, where you have flowering plants, there you will find bees. What do they look like? Like most other Hymenoptera, bees in their adult stage have two pairs of clear wings with the front pair larger than the back pair. The wing pairs, which are held together by small hooks, operate in unison in flight. Bees have large compound eyes and females usually have an ovipositor. Unlike other Hymenoptera, bees have a proboscis for siphoning nectar and fuzzy bodies with feathery hair, which allows for transport of pollen. Some bees even have “baskets” made from hairs on their hind legs to transport pollen. Bees, like ants and wasps of the suborder Apocrita, have the characteristic narrow junction between the thorax and the abdomen, which provides greater flexibility. Like their wasp ancestors, bees have long, straight antennae.Image of a Honey Bee In your garden, you may recognize the Honey Bees —an import brought by settlers from Europe—and the native Bumble Bees. These two black and yellow bees are classic social bees, with a caste system of a queen, workers (all female) and drones (all males) live in large colonies. However, in Canada, most species are solitary in their habit and nest in the ground or in tree cavities; the exception are Parasitic Bees, which do not build nests at all. What do they eat? Most Canadian bees live on a diet of pollen and nectar, which they collect from one or multiple plant families in the course of a single foraging trip near their nest. How do they reproduce? All native bees have a complete, four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The first three stages take up the greater part of their life cycles. In some species, only the new queen hibernates through the winter and begins new life cycles in spring. In other species, the adults hibernate through the winter and mate in the spring. Did you know?

  • Most Canadian bee species do not make honey. Several species, including some Bumblebees, have this ability; the Honey Bee, however, is the only species that can produce economically viable quantities. All the other bees use the pollen and nectar to feed their larvae.
  • Not all bees can sting. Drones do not have stingers at all. Bumblebee and solitary queens and workers rarely sting. However, you may expect to be stung if you swat, stand on, or otherwise disturb them while they forage.
  • Honey Bees that protect the honey and the queen sting once then die: the barb of the stinger remains in the pierced skin, and the intestine is pulled out as the bee flies away. Bumble Bees do have stingers, but they are not barbed; if threatened, they can sting several times.
What can you do to help the bees? Habitat loss, disease, exposure to pesticides and climate change are all significant threats to bees. You can do your part by supporting efforts to ban pesticides, especially neonicotinoids in field crops; to protect bee habitat, and to help us raise awareness of the bees’ important role in our food supply and of their plight. We also encourage you to grow pollinator gardens and native plants in your home, school or community. Remember, healthy bee populations mean access to local fruit, vegetables and nuts and beautiful flowers!
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Bringing Bees to Your Garden
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Bringing Bees to Your Garden

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott[/caption] This blog post was written by Blair Scott, a guest blogger for Nature Canada. This summer you can attract bees to your garden with more than your wildflowers! We have created a step-by-step guide on how you can make your own Mason Bee Hive. This bee hive can be easily made from recycled material that you have in your home and will help to bring back the bees.

How to Construct a Mason Bee Hive:

This tubular-style of hive will primarily attract solitary bees such as the Mason Bee and the Leaf-cutter Bee.
  1. Materials needed: scissors, tape, a pencil, a marker, an empty and clean aluminum can, two toilet paper rolls (or paper towel rolls cut in half), straws and/or a magazine, enthusiasm!
  1. Start building: Take your two toilet paper rolls and place them inside your aluminum can – you want the rolls to be about 4 inches long – just long enough so that they do not stretch past the rim of the can. Finished product in this step should resemble “owl eyes,” and should have a tight fit inside the can.
  1. Have some fun: paint the can, put stickers on it, bright colours – whatever you feel like doing to liven it up!Image of a Mason Bee
  1. Bee tubes 101: diameter measurements of the tubes should range anywhere between 1/8 - 1/2 of an inch – this is the preferred width of the Mason Bees. To make your tubes, you can use straws (already ready to insert) or rolled-up, durable pieces of paper (ex: magazine paper).
  1. Make your bee tubes: If you have chosen to roll your own tubes, you will need both a pencil and a slightly-larger marker – to achieve tube-size variation. Smaller tube: align a pencil on top of a sheet of durable paper and start rolling, keeping it tightly bundled! Before you remove the pencil from your tube, tape it together. Larger tube: The same as above, but with a marker that is larger than the pencil. Tape it together. Repeat until you have a substantial number of tubes to fill the toilet paper rolls with.
  1. Tube construction continued: remember to vary the sizes of your tubes – some bees want a big hole, others prefer a small dwelling. Your tubes do not have to look perfect or be a certain colour to attract these bees. Just make sure that they fall within the proper diameter range, and that there is a clear view inside – any crinkled parts that arose during the “rolling step” should be manually straightened out.
  1. Fill your toilet paper rolls with the bee tubes! To ensure that the hive is tight and bee-ready, shake it to make sure that no tubes fall out.
  1. Put it in your garden or wherever you like! Be creative – there is no need to buy fancy, expensive tools or materials from the hardware store. #1 Tip = keep it out of the rain! Nestle it somewhere safe where it fits tightly or glue/tie it to a wooden post. Your hive-building adventure is complete!
Let us know how yours turn out by sharing it on Facebook or Twitter! For the full video, click here.
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Attract Pollinators to Your Garden!
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Attract Pollinators to Your Garden!

[caption id="attachment_26918" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Blair Scott Blair Scott,
Professional Writing Intern[/caption] Wow! Look at that little…hummingbird...fuzzy butterfly…bee? You’re close! Try Hummingbird Moth! Once you’re done scratching your head in disbelief at this bizarre, seeming-cross between a bird and an insect, you’ll want to know exactly what can be done to keep these fascinating creatures around your backyard landscape! Scientifically, the Hummingbird (Clearwing) Moth is known as Hemaris thysbe and it belongs to the sphinx family of moths. It is often referred to as “Hawk Moth” or “Hummingbird Hawk-Moth.” The Hummingbird Moth begins as a larvae/caterpillar, munching on the leaves of its favourite plants: honeysuckle, snowberry, hawthorns, cherries and plums. Once it blooms into a fabulous, winged creature, its primary food source is flower nectar – which it sucks from its long proboscis while still suspended in the air, fluttering its wings at a rapid rate.

Top plants that attract these pollinators include:

[custom_table style="2"]
Bee Balm Image of Bee Balm

Red clover

red-clover-flower-113867_1280

Lilac

Image of Lilacs

Phlox

Image of Phlox

Cranberry

Image of cranberry flowers

Vetch

Image of a Vetch plant
[/custom_table] To optimize your chances of catching a glimpse of this moth, plant a wide variety of these flowers! In addition, you can help Hummingbird Moth caterpillars construct their cocoons by leaving “leaf litter” (plant residue) around your garden terrain. And please refrain from using chemical pesticides – let’s keep the nectar sweet for our pollinators! If you are looking to attract all kinds of pollinators, keep in mind that different types (bees, butterflies, birds, etc.) have varying foraging techniques, which corresponds with their flower preferences.

When preparing your garden, consider the following:

  • Plant a balanced mixture of open-petal flowers and enclosed-petal flowers – some pollinators can go deep inside to gather pollen and nectar, while others – like the Hummingbird Moth – “hover” over the flower.
  • Whenever you can, choose plant varieties that are native to your region.
  • Ensure that your flowers bloom during various seasons, so that pollinators will have flowers to visit from spring to fall. If you only plant early-blooming flowers, for instance, pollinator food-stores may be cut short in the fall, when they are preparing for winter hibernation.
  • Include other features in your garden such as bird houses, bird baths or a shallow, insect-friendly dish that holds water. You should also put rocks and sticks inside these baths or water holder so that they have landing spots when they come in for a drink.
  • If you are feeling particularly “experimental,” learn how to construct a home-made beehive using very basic household materials! Stay tuned for our next blog on how to build this beehive!
Let us know about the pollinators you have in your garden this spring through sending a message on Facebook or tweeting at us @NatureCanada!
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Bring Back the Bees this Spring!
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Bring Back the Bees this Spring!

[caption id="attachment_26979" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Adam Bond Adam Bond, Articling Student[/caption] An early spring is on the cusp this year in many parts of Canada. Soon we will be sparking up our barbecues and setting up our patios for outdoor dining. This season, when the full swing of your barbecue event is interrupted by the inevitable intrusion of an overly friendly, but potentially unstable bee, imagine a significantly more frightening scenario. Imagine that this year, no bees wake from their slumber to come visit you on your patio. There are countless, serious environmental issues that are being driven by human activities today. We are facing local and regional issues such as environmental contamination and unsustainable resource depletion, as well as global issues like climate change and dramatic increases in plastic and carbon concentrations in the oceans. While remaining up-to-date on all of the environmental issues threatening our planet can be a full-time job, the health of bees and their ecosystems should be a key public priority. There are over 700 native species of bees in Canada and more than 20,000 species of bees worldwide. Though many species contribute to pollination- including butterflies, moths, beetles, birds and bats – bees are responsible for a great deal of the heavy lifting in the pollinating department. Pollinators help fertilize plants by transferring pollen from one flowering plant to another. About three-quarters of the world’s food crops are dependent in some way on this process, representing between $250 and $577 billion USD worth of crops annually. Globally, more than 40 percent of invertebrate pollinators, such as bees, are currently facing extinction. Since 2007, overwintering loss (bee population decline following winter and early spring) in Canada have increased dramatically. Prior to 2007, losses were reported to be between 10 and 15 percent. From 2007 until 2014, overwintering losses were anywhere from 15 to 35 percent. Image of a Honey BeeWhile mass bee mortality incidents correlate with the use of neonicotinoid pesticides (used widely in Canada since the mid-1990s primarily for corn and soybean crops) in some regions this correlation does not exist in other regions. Reports of the relationship between mass bee mortality events and neonicotinoid use began to surface in the spring of 2012 and there is growing scientific evidence that these pesticides can be highly toxic to Honey Bees and other pollinators. There is, however, no single cause of the dangerous decline in bee populations. A synergy of human impacts on the environment are driving the catastrophic bee mortality incidents, from unsustainable farming practices, declining diversity of wildflowers and grasslands, pesticide use (such as neonicotinoids), habitat loss, disease and even global warming. In the context of a world of doom-and-gloom environmental issues –where domestic politics and international relations make Potemkin Villages of meaningful environmental action – Canadians should find hope in ecological initiatives focused on bees. Protecting bees from extinction is one of the few global environmental issues that can truly be accomplished at the local level. Many of the pressures driving the decline of bee populations can be resolved without the need for international agreement (though it probably wouldn’t hurt). The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of the United Nations has identified several options for addressing the decline of pollinator populations, including:

  • Enhancing diversity of pollinator habitat in agriculture and urban landscapes;
  • Supporting traditional agricultural and habitat management practices;
  • Decreasing exposure of pollinators to pesticides; and
  • Improving managed bee husbandry and regulations of the trade and use of commercial pollinators.
Rethinking the way we manage our land locally - farmlands, grasslands and cities – will determine the fate of the bee populations in our communities. You can also take action today by visiting Bring Back the Bees, and sign up to get free seeds as part of General Mills’ campaign to help address declining bee populations. As part of their #BringBackTheBees campaign, they are giving out 35 million wildflower seeds to Canadians. Click, grow and save some bees!
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Ontarians want bee-killing insecticide banned
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Ontarians want bee-killing insecticide banned

An insecticide you may have heard called 'neonic' is at the heart of a troubling trend in recent years. Neonicotinoid insecticides, a chemical used extensively on corn and other crops in Ontario, is a key factor in the decline of bee populations. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) analysed over 800 research papers and concluded that neonics are killing bees in great numbers. According to a recent poll, the decline of bees is not going unnoticed by Ontarians. A study by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Ontario Nature and the David Suzuki Foundation, showed that 87 percent of Ontarians are concerned about the threat posed by neonicotinoid insecticides and a whopping 92 percent would like the government to take action to protect bees. Ontario Nature, an affiliate of Nature Canada, is urging the government of Ontario to ban neonicotinoid insecticides.      

First it was the butterflies, then it was the bees, and now it’s the birds
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First it was the butterflies, then it was the bees, and now it’s the birds

A specific kind of insecticide has been harming bees worldwide. But it is starting to have a ripple effect. A study in the Netherlands has shown that there has been a decline in farmland birds. They trace the decline to the use of a particular kind of insecticide known as neonicotinoids on insects. Many birds eat insects or feed it to their young. But if their food has been contaminated then it’s possible for even a single kernel of corn to cause the birds to get sick or even die.


Check out National Geographic's excellent video on neonicotinoids here:

Image of Professor Hans de Kroon in a field
The insecticides are also killing insects, giving birds not enough food to eat. The results could be negative to the effects on the food chain if we don’t stop using neonicotinoids, especially on farmland. In Canada, Nature Canada is working on solving this problem. We've partnered with the University of Manitoba and York University and local naturalist groups to tag and monitor populations of Purple Martin birds. Nature Canada's Purple Martin Project will hopefully help us understand what role, if any, neonicotinoids have on other species. Click here to learn more.

This is a guest blog post by Courtenay Bettinger, a Nature Canada summer student.

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