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Beekeepers and ENGOs Fight to Protect Bees from Harmful Effects of Neonicotinoids
Bees Activities by Clay Ross
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Beekeepers and ENGOs Fight to Protect Bees from Harmful Effects of Neonicotinoids

In early December, I had the privilege of meeting representatives from the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association and the Fédération des Apiculteurs du Québec to hear about their advocacy work with respect to neonicotinoid pesticides. Since first experiencing wide-spread hive die-offs in 2012, beekeepers have been concerned about the excessive and unprecedented losses of colonies from the inappropriate use of neonicotinoid pesticide treated seeds. In response, the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association and the Fédération des Apiculteurs have urged provincial ministers to take action to rapidly and drastically reduce the amount of neonics in the environment. After years of inaction at the federal or provincial levels, the beekeepers associations have taken their fight to court. On February 20, 2018 the Superior Court of Quebec authorized a class action lawsuit on behalf of beekeepers of Quebec against Bayer CropScience Inc., Bayer Inc., Bayer CropScience AG, Syngenta Canada Inc., and Syngenta International AG in connection with neonics. The class action is based on allegations that the Defendants studied, designed, developed, produced, distributed, marketed and/or sold the neonics that would have caused the loss of bee colonies, resulting in financial damage or loss to beekeepers. Beekeepers of Ontario have launched similar action in Ontario court and await a decision certifying the class action. At the same time, David Suzuki FoundationOntario NatureFriends of the Earth Canada, and Wilderness Committee, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, are engaged in a lawsuit arguing that the way Canada currently regulates neonics is unlawful. They are asking the court to rule that the PMRA’s “approve first, study science later” approach is unlawful and that the practice of granting approvals without science cannot continue.

Nature Canada sends its best wishes all of these advocacy organizations in their fight to protect Canada’s bees – and all other critters – from the harmful impacts of neonicotinoids.

European Union Neonic Ban to Protect Bees
Photo by Sandy Nelson
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European Union Neonic Ban to Protect Bees

The EU’s ban on neonicotinoid pesticides is set to come into force on December 19, 2018; giving bees and other critters a chance to thrive in the New Year. The EU has adopted a near-total ban on three neonicotinoid pesticides: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam. The use of all three neonics across the EU has been restricted to non-flowering crops since 2013. The new ban would go further, completely prohibiting their use outdoors. The ban is in response to a science review conducted by the European Food Safety Authority – Pesticides Unit, which concluded that the outdoor use of neonics harms bees. Exposure of both honeybees and wild bees (bumblebees and solitary bees) to neonics was assessed via three routes: residues in bee pollen and nectar; dust drift during the sowing/application of the treated seeds; and water consumption. The ban does not extended to all neonics or uses of neonics. Two neonics - sulfoxaflor and thiacloprid - are not covered by the ban. In addition, farmers may still use clothianidin, imiacloprid and thiamethoxam in greenhouses.

It is a step towards protecting bees and birds from the harmful impacts of neonics. It is time for Canada to follow suit!

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

An Update: Neonics vs Bees, Birds and the Planet
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An Update: Neonics vs Bees, Birds and the Planet

This blog was written by Julie Lopez, the Digital Campaign Organizer at Nature Canada. Nature Canada is thankful of the support that our Petition to ban the use of Neonics has received. By taking a stand against neonics, we can apply pressure to decision makers, and ensure Canada catches up to other places in protecting our birds and bees from harmful chemicals. 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. A big thanks to you, and thousands of other Canadians for signing our petition and standing together to ban neonics.  Please help strengthen our voice by sharing 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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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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