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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

Sunny Seeds: Helping the environment with Sunflower Power
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Sunny Seeds: Helping the environment with Sunflower Power

[caption id="attachment_30818" align="alignleft" width="150"]Jill Sturdy Jill Sturdy, NatureHood Program Manager[/caption] Here at Nature Canada, we have found the next generation of voices for nature! A third grade class from the Lakeview Public School in Ottawa created a business, Sunny Seeds, with the proceeds of  $676.00 in sales donated to Nature Canada. Last Thursday, on June 7th, our NatureHood Program Manager, Jill Sturdy was invited to visit the class and present the work that Nature Canada is doing. Although, Jill had brought gifts for the students the true surprise was the level of enthusiasm, commitment and passion that the class showed. When the Grade 3 class first started their business, they partnered with BMO to develop the business model. After setting the groundwork of their business plan, they researched several local charities whose mission aligned with their intent. After many hours of research, the students decided that their their business mandate aligned with that of Nature Canada’s. The students were happy to know that we help connect Canadians with Nature and by selling sunflowers they were doing so too. The Sunny Seeds came to the forefront of our attention at our local Bird Day event, when they were sharing our booth at the Ottawa Children's Festival to sell their Sunny Seeds. These students drew people towards their booth and were convincing enough to have them support their cause. Their high quality sunflower seeds came from the Ontario Seed Company and packs were sold for $3.50 each and two for $6.   At their first event they had already raised an impressive $183.00. Needless to say, they were impressed with our history; 75 years strong and over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas protected. Sunny Seed’s goal is “to get people to grow sunflowers to help the environment.”

“Did you know, when you plant sunflower seeds, you remove all the toxins from the soil and air?” a student  excitedly shared with Jill. “Sunflowers help with pollution.”  
Not only did Sunny Seeds raise awareness for the environment, but by planting and growing these sunflower seeds, they reminded us how important native plants are for pollination. Since sunflowers are a popular flower during summer, this is the perfect time to plant some in your own back yard. Sunflowers are known to produce a sweet pollen mixture that attracts bees and other insects. When the pollinators arrive, they get their feet wet with the pollen as they drink the plant’s nectar. The plant relies on this pollination process and so do we. We didn’t have to spend much time with the students to realize how well prepared they were! The students recounted their Bird Day experience with excitement. They were overjoyed to welcome home migratory birds from down south for the summer as well as learn about different species of birds. We were equally excited to learn that the students can spot and name many endangered species and birds in their own backyards. Sunny Seeds have made our lives brighter and we want to thank this incredible class and their exceptional leader, Miss Lindsay Mattesz for making a difference with SUNFLOWER POWER.

Thank you to the Grade 3 class at Lakeview Public School!

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Gardening Across the City
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Gardening Across the City

[caption id="attachment_34286" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Stacy Taylor Stacy Taylor, Guest Blogger[/caption] This post was written by member and guest blogger Stacy Taylor. Have you heard of the term “guerilla gardening”? Guerilla gardening refers to gardening on land that does not belong to you. Most commonly the term is used to mean people planting in land that they do not legally own, such as an abandoned site.  Although it is not always a cloak-and-dagger routine, the fact that many groups prefer to work at night is one reason for a certain social stigma to this activity.

Image of PhloxA Brief History

Guerilla gardening is something that can date back to John Chapman (aka “Johnny Appleseed”) in 1801 when apple trees were introduced in large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Ontario.  The activity began to gain momentum in the 1960s in Berkeley, California.  However, the term was first used by Liz Christy’s Green Guerilla Group in 1973 when they transformed a derelict private lot in New York into a garden. Today this lot enjoys protection from the city parks department and is still cared for by volunteers.

Guerilla Gardening and the Law

In order to participate in this type of gardening, you first need to discuss this with your city to ensure you have permission to spread seeds on the specified lots. If you participate in this activity without consulting your city council, it is illegal. From an enforcement standpoint, guerilla gardening could constitute as unlawful entry or damage to property, therefore it is critical to get approval first. Something else to consider is ensuring you are only gardening with local native plants to avoid introducing invasive species. Many who engage in this activity have the aim of beautifying inner-city eyesores like medians or roundabouts, while others are doing this in the name of food justice, to plant gardens in areas with limited access to fresh food.

Examples

Australia's Network Ten features a show called Guerilla Gardeners to raise awareness of the “Permablitz” groups. These are people who gather regularly to design and construct free suburban vegetable gardens. Richard Reynolds started a blog in 2004 to highlight his solo guerilla gardening efforts around Elephant & Castle, London - GuerillaGardening.org. The site is still his blog; however, as he hopes to inspire others in to action, it includes tips and links, and tries to link up supporters around the world.Image of Black-eyed Susans Greenaid In Los Angeles in 2010, Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud began an organisation that converted gumball machines to dispense seed balls, a combination of clay, compost, and region-specific seeds.  Seed balls can be tossed or planted in any area that could benefit from wildflowers. The advantages of seed bombing with balls is that it does not require actual planting in private property and does not have the same illegal stigma as guerilla gardening.

Does it Work?

If the aim of the guerilla gardener is to drop some wildflower seeds and hope something grows, there is a chance it will, provided they have chosen the right seeds and the right conditions. Wildflowers will attract pollinators, and pollinators will help spread the seed.  So yes seed bombing can work. Beautifying the area can be done with seeds or planted flowers. Before planting flowers, make sure the conditions are right, that there is enough sunlight, rain, and soil, and be sure to use local, hardy plants; for example, some areas need drought resistant plants. Be prepared to go back to the area with fertilizer and water. A vegetable garden will take a lot of tending and gardening after initial planting. A vegetable patch can be a lot of work and it would be advised to get a group of like-minded individuals together to tend to and monitor the plot. Community gardens have had a lot of success in food deserts where several residents want to get involved and help.

Photo of a bee on a purple flowerGuerilla Gardening May Save Pollinators

Many pollinators are federally listed as threatened or endangered. This is due to a global decline, caused by loss of habitat, pesticide use, invasive plants and animals and diseases. Native wildflowers and perennials provide food for native bees, honeybees, butterflies and many other beneficial insects.  The main thing is to make sure that the wildflowers you are planting are native and not invasive and to choose the right area. If planting for pollinators, it is best not to use pesticides, organic management through correct soils and proper weeding is advisable. In an area of pollinator friendly flowers, it could also be advantageous to erect a bug home (also known as an insect hotel), which is a structure using natural materials that can provide shelter for insects.

How to participate

If this is something you would like to be a part of, take the right actions by contacting your city officials, choose the area carefully, use the right soil or compost, and make sure the flowers or seeds are not invasive.
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The Colourful Hummingbird Moth
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The Colourful Hummingbird Moth

[caption id="attachment_23299" align="alignleft" width="150"]Image of Valerie Assinewe Valerie Assinewe,
Guest Blogger[/caption] This month the Nature Canada calendar features the colourful Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. From this photograph, you may wonder why they call this a Hummingbird Moth. The following are some attributes that explain this Hummingbird mimic:

Where do they live?

The Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) can be seen in our summer months fluttering about in open and second-growth habitats, gardens, and suburbs across most of Canada except Nunavut. Hummingbirds have a similar range.

What do they look like?

Adult: The wingspan is 4–6 cm. The head is olive to tan. The thorax is olive to golden-olive in colour dorsally, yellow ventrally; the abdomen is dark burgundy (sometimes almost black) both dorsally and ventrally, with light olive to dark golden patches dorsally. Their wings are clear with a reddish-brown border and veins. Their legs are yellowish or pale coloured. NatureWatchers would never mistake this Sphinx Moth for a Hummingbird…no matter how quickly it flits by. Young: The larvae/caterpillars are bright green with a line of white dots that end in a fleshy, pointy extension resembling a tail. There are also small reddish spots along its side.

Image of a Red CloverWhat do they eat?

Caterpillar: Leaves of honeysuckle, snowberry, hawthorns, cherries and plums, and European cranberry bush. Adult: With their long proboscis they drink nectar from a wide variety of flowers including Japanese honeysuckle, beebalm, red clover, lilac, phlox, snowberry, cranberry, blueberry, vetch, and thistles. Look for Hummingbirds hovering and drinking at most of these nectar sources too.

How do they reproduce?

In the USA and southern Canada, there are generally two broods from March-June and August-October, while there is only one brood in the north from April-August. As fully-grown caterpillars, they burrow in the leaf litter to pupate in cocoons, emerging soon after or waiting until the following spring.

How do they behave?

Unlike most other moths, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moths fly and feed during the daytime. Like other members of the Sphingidae, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moths are fast and strong fliers and have very rapid wing beats. They hover in midair as they feed on nectar and are often mistaken for hummingbirds, for which they are named.

Note

This moth is a pollinator: they drink nectar from blooms with open or deep flowers and pollinate many of them from the pollen caught on their upper body. This month, as you enjoy the warm days and the spring showers, plan to attract the colourful Hummingbird Clearwing Moth to your garden by planting native wildflowers and shrubs. Remember to avoid chemical pesticides and allow some leaf litter!
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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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Put Dad on the Map this Father’s Day
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Put Dad on the Map this Father’s Day

Alex 242x242 with titleAre you looking for a fun, innovative gift for Father’s Day? Want to find a way to spend some quality time with your Dad and spend time outdoors? Well if your Dad likes puttering in the backyard, has a green thumb (or likes to think he does), or is always looking for home improvement jobs, look no further! Nature Canada has the perfect solution – put your dad on the map. That is, put a space that’s special to your dad on the map – such as your yard, a nearby green space, a park, or even a campsite. Stumped? Try to think of where your dad goes to connect with nature... Is it nearby nature? Is it in your naturehood?Is it your yard? [caption id="attachment_17610" align="alignright" width="377"]photo white throated Sparrow White Throated Sparrow photo by John Flannery[/caption] Whatever the case, it’s easy to put your dad’s special space on the map. Using the free YardMap* citizen science tool you can can create informative, detailed maps of the basic land cover (e.g., grass, forest, etc.), special natural features (e.g., fruit trees, milkweed plants, bird houses), and – most importantly – the various habitats available to urban wildlife in a space that’s special to your dad. That space could play a big role in providing habitat for urban wildlife. And I don’t just mean raccoons, skunks and pigeons (which we may not want) – I’m also referring to migratory visitors like Swainson’s Thrushes, White-throated Sparrows, Tree Swallows, Monarch butterflies, Silver-haired Bats and Common Green Darner dragonflies. Wouldn’t it be great to celebrate your dad and what he means to you by showing him what his special space means to nature? This is a sure way to put a smile on your father’s face if he enjoys the outdoors, likes gardening or enjoys puttering around the yard. To get started, simply visit YardMap.ca and sign-up for a free account. Once inside you use the “Map” features to navigate to your dad’s special space and start mapping using the available tools in the “Tool Shed”.  You can impress your dad by completing a map of his space, or you can map the space with his help – a great way to spend some quality-time together! [caption id="attachment_21375" align="alignleft" width="262"]YardMap_Map_demo YardMap helps you document urban wildlife habitats right in your yard![/caption] And your efforts will be of value to ecologists and other scientists, as well. That’s because relatively little is known about the types of wildlife habitat available in backyards and small green spaces. By putting these spaces on the map, you’re helping to provide insights into why certain species may or may not be present in an area when otherwise expected. Plus, you can help scientists gain insight into the extent and different types of stewardship actions individual residents are taking, such as maintaining a natural pesticide-free yard, adding rain barrels or solar panels, or planting nectar-producing plants. If you’re still not convinced that a ‘YardMap gift’ is right for your dad this Father’s Day, consider this as a great way to celebrate Pollinator Week, June 15th to 21st. Please consider sharing your YardMap project with us! You can send me a link to your map at amacdonald  (AT) naturecanada.ca if so. *Nature Canada is the Canadian partner of YardMap, a citizen science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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