September 13, 2016 Recently, Health Canada proposed amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance in the context of veterinary drugs. Included in these proposed amendments is a change in access to products currently used for the prevention of American Foulbrood (AFB), which would require veterinarian approval. The OBA's submission states:The OBA strongly recommends a program of surveillance, education and training wih full access to antibiotics. The OBA warns that any restrictive access to antibiotics, such as requiring beekeepers to obtain a prescription from veterinarians, would be counter-productive and harmful to Ontario's already fragile honey bee health and beekeeping industry.The full submission, including recommendations, can be found here.
Once again, for the ninth year, the Wellington County Beekeepers’ Association is generously coordinating the winter wrap program, with proceeds supporting the OBA Tech-Transfer Research Program.In 2007, Jim Coneybeare and Diane Krout of the Wellington County Beekeepers organized the manufacture of these wraps and have made them available to Ontario Beekeepers each year since then. These wraps are made of 4mm black polypropylene (corrugated plastic) with 5% U.V. protection. Polypropylene Copolymer is used for indoor and outdoor signs and packaging. They are lightweight and are designed to fold and store flat. Polypropylene has been tested to have little water absorption in 24 hours - .02% compared with 75% for (presumably unwaxed) cardboard in 50% relative humidity. It will withstand temperature extremes from -17F to 230F. Folds have a living hinge of 21,000 cycles. File(s): 2016 Winter Wrap Order Form.pdf ON winter wrap info sheet -3.pdf
July 27, 2016 DownloadWith a significant and growing demand for highly-trained beekeepers across Canada and around the world, Niagara College has introduced a one-year hands-on Commercial Beekeeping Graduate Certificate program – the first of its kind in Eastern Canada.The three-semester program will see its first intake of approximately 30 students begin studies at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus in January 2017. With the winter start, the program will run parallel to the normal annual lifecycle of the honey bee, from the winter slumber to honey extraction, to returning the bees to their hives for overwintering.“Our commercial Beekeeping program is a shining example of one of Niagara College’s key strengths – our ability to work closely with industry to develop high-quality academic programs that respond to specific needs in our community and beyond,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson.The program is truly hands-on, with an on-campus apiary – with 30 actively managed hives – serving as the centrepiece of the program.“The need for a skilled labour force to offset the loss of a natural ecological process is significant,” said Al Unwin, associate dean of Niagara College’s School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies. “The development of this program aligns with our overall approach to agri-food, where pollinators are an increasingly important part of a vibrant food system. We’ve worked closely with industry to create a hands-on program that will produce graduates that are knowledgeable, highly skilled and experienced.”The demand for skilled workers to support the pollination services industry is significant. In its most recent agricultural census, Statistics Canada estimates a need for more than 3,600 commercial beekeepers by 2026.“I commend Niagara College on the launch of the commercial beekeeping program for our province,” said The Hon. Jeff Leal, Ontario’s minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Training and education are key elements to supporting and improving the health of honey bees in Ontario. Innovative programs like this one play an important role in the future of the apiary sector.”Niagara College’s program has been in development for four years, in collaboration with the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA), which represents 80 percent of beekeepers in Ontario.“The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association is particularly pleased to have partnered with Niagara College on the concept and launch of their new Commercial Beekeeping program,” said Tibor Szabo, president of the OBA. “Today’s commercial beekeeper faces many challenges both locally and globally. This is a great first step for anyone thinking of a career in beekeeping.”The Commercial Beekeeping Graduate Certificate program is a post-grad program open to students with a diploma or degree from an accredited college or university in agribusiness, agricultural sciences, environmental science/resource studies, horticulture or natural sciences, or an acceptable combination of education and experience. Learn more about the program online at www.niagaracollege.ca.Niagara College offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs at campuses in Welland, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Niagara Falls; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Continuing Education courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. For more information visit NiagaraCollege.ca.
Artist uses dead bees to create mathematical patterns
Culture21 November 13
by Olivia Solon
Pierre Laporte Photography A Canadian visual artist called Sarah Hatton has taken thousands of dead honeybees and arranged them onto canvasses in mathematical patterns such as the Fibonacci spiral found in sunflowers. Hatton -- who is also a beekeeper -- decided to use bees in her work to spread awareness of bee colony collapse disorder to a broad audience in a conceptual way. "Life often finds its way into one's art, and I had long been thinking of an artistic way to talk about the global decline of bees. I decided to use dead bees as the most direct visual way to represent this message, with the most emotional impact," she told Wired.co.uk.
One of the pieces, Florid, followed the Fibonacci spiral seen in the seed pattern of a sunflower. Two other pieces -- Circle 1 and Circle 2 -- use ancient patterns that have recently surfaced in crop circles. "Both of these patterns have symbolic ties to agriculture, particularly the monoculture crop system that is having such a detrimental effect on bees," she explained. "In particular, neonicotinoid pesticides, which are used in many countries on these type of crops, destroy bees' navigational systems."
Hatton says that when viewed in person, the works "produce a vertigo effect" which she likens to the bees' loss of ability to navigate when exposed to the pesticides.
The dead bees came from her own hives -- she lost an entire colony due to natural causes in the spring. She glued them to wooden panels, coating them with epoxy resin to preserve them.
"Colony collapse" and disease threaten honey bee population.
by Valerie MacDonald in the Northumberland Today Posted this news on the Honeybee.
CENTRETON - Given the alarming rates at which honey bees are dying around the world, Centreton-area beekeeper Stu Herod expected some of his 10 hives would not survive the winter. But it still was disappointing, and a bit of a mystery, when the two smaller, experimental hives were empty when he opened them recently during a trip to the field near his home.
"There's honey here," he said.
That meant there was food for them. But, still no bees.
On this sunny day there were some bees buzzing around other hives but Herod decided to wait until warmer weather to unwrap and check the balance.
This recent phenomenon of "colony collapse" is just one of several challenges beekeepers are facing. Others include mites and diseases.
But of key concern is "irresponsible pesticide use" as outlined in correspondence to Northumberland County councillors by bee crusader Clinton Ekdahl, and the council's decision to bring awareness to the honey bee's contribution to the food chain, and its plight, by agreeing with Ekdahl's request to designate May 29 the Day of the Honey Bee.
Ekdahl has been working for the past four years to raise the profile of the problem and get government action at the provincial and federal levels.
"Many people still do not realize how important honey bees are to our way of life," he stated in his March 6 letter to county council. "This is troubling because honey bees are responsible for a third of all the food we eat. Honey bees are responsible for 70% of our food crop pollination. They are a keystone species; the very cornerstone to the sustainability of our agriculture and the primary basis of stability for our fragile environments.
"This issue is even more severe because honey bees continue to die at alarming and catastrophic rates in Canada, and in every country where they are raised."
Although last year was a better than many for Herod when he and his family harvested honey in the fall, "there have been a lot of bad years," he said.
In his 26th year of keeping bees as a hobby, Herod is a member of the Ontario Beekeepers' Association and the Central Ontario Beekeeping Association.
"The Ontario Beekeepers' Association is currently in discussions with Ontario's farm organizations, including the Ontario Federation of Agriculture… grain… fruit and vegetable growers, and is actively working with the Canadian Honey Council industry and government to address the Honey Bee poisoning issue," states the March 2013 issue of The Ontario Bee Journal which Herod notes.
Of pesticides and insecticides being targeted as the reason for bee deaths is clothianidin, a neonicotinoid, among the chemicals put on corn seeds to protect them when planted.
And both the pollen of the corn and soil blown to other fields are believed to be responsible for bees mortality, according to an article in Bee Culture.
The Honey Bee Journal reported in its January 2013 issue that last spring "acute pesticide damage" was reported at over 200 locations in Ontario. These signs of damage included "large piles of dead bees in from of the colony, trembling, shaking and atypical behaviour displayed in bees," the article states. Testing by Health Canada found the presence of clothianidin, used on corn seed.
"In the good old days (before these pesticides and other bee dangers) out of six hives I might lose one (over the winter)," Herod said. "Now, I would expect to lose three and have one that was weak."
Every time a hive is lost, a new queen bee is needed and they can cost about $2,500 – and in years where too many bees don't make it over the winter, there is a shortage of these special bees needed to replace lost colonies.
More municipalities than other levels of government have responded to Ekdahl's request to make the public more aware about bees and the increasing number of deaths. As there numbers grow he hopes there will be pressure on the federal and provincial governments to tackle the bee problems head on.
London Free Press: Pesticides linked to bee deaths
May 7, 2013 by Debora Van Brenk, Posted in the London Free Press
Ontario beekeepers are crossing their fingers as they worry spring planting might bring a repeat of widespread bee deaths they blame on a group of insecticides with a disputed record. New federal and provincial guidelines ask farmers to plant corn only under specific, controlled conditions to minimize small particles of insecticide dust escaping from the seed coatings into the bees’ turf. But the guidelines are voluntary, and even apiarists say farmers are rarely able to wait for perfect planting conditions.
Dan Davidson, president of the Ontario Beekeepers Association, said corn was planted on a field near one of his bee yards last Friday. On Monday morning, he found many of those bees had died. “There were hundreds in front of some of the hives.” Last year at this time, bees examined after mass die-offs at Davidson’s Watford-area hives were found to have high levels of neonicotinoids, an insecticide used to coat corn seed.
Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency says between April and June 2012, Southern Ontario had “an unusually high number” of bee losses from a reported 40 beekeepers and more than 200 bee yards. The die-offs coincided with the timing and location of corn planting: 70% of those dead bees sampled were found to have residues of the same neonicitinoid used to coat crop seed. The agency recommends farmers avoid planting in dry or windy conditions, upwind of bee yards and improve equipment to reduce pesticide dust. But that’s not always realistic, said Chris Hiemstra of Clovermead Adventure Farm near Aylmer. “They’re fighting weather and they just can’t wait for perfect conditions,” said Hiemstra. Bees found dead at his hive entrances last year tested positive for neonicotinoids, designed to affect the nervous systems of damaging insects. Hiemstra hopes this year’s planting will have minimal impact on his bees.
“You just cross your fingers and hope for the best,” he said. The pesticides have been in use for more than a decade and have been credited for controlling otherwise damaging insects. Industry advocates have condemned suspicion of the product as junk science. Even so, the European Union will partly ban three types of neonicotinoids around flowering crops, starting in December, because of concerns about bee-colony collapses.
And Ontario government researchers will monitor their effects on bees in several areas of the province this year. They’re also testing better ways to make the insecticide “stick” to the seed. Davidson is among a growing number of beekeepers who believe the pesticide’s effect may also show up in more subtle but equally alarming ways. Davidson said sub-lethal doses seem to be affecting bee ability to learn and remember, to navigate back to the hive and longevity and fertility. “Our queens are not lasting as long and (they’re) just outright dying . . . You lose the queen, you lose the hive,” Davidson said. About 80% of seed-based crops need pollinators such as bees. Often, apiarists are also cash-crop farmers themselves or rent their bees to farmers.
Global News: Bee deaths 'a disaster in the making'
May 8, 2013
By Nicole Mortillaro Global News
Last spring, beekeeper Dan Davidson of Watford, Ontario, went out to check on his honeybee hives, which house 1500 colonies. Instead of healthy hives, he found a large number of bees on the ground, either twitching or already dead.
“I didn’t think much of it at that time,” Davidson, president of the Ontario Beekeepers Association said. “But then a large amount of other beekeepers reported the same.”
It was these widespread reports that got the industry buzzing.
There wasn’t any real cause that they could point to. Beekeepers had battled back varroa mites in the 1990s and had that threat to their bees under control. The one common factor, however, was corn.
Each year in the spring, corn fields in Ontario are sprayed with neonicotinoids (NNI), an insecticide produced by manufacturers like Bayer CropScience and Syngenta. The insecticide is widely used across Canada. In the case of Davidson and other Ontario beekeepers, the insecticide was being used on nearby corn fields.
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency went out and collected samples of the bees. What they found was that 70 per cent tested positive for NNIs.
“Last year is when we put the pieces together,” Davidson said, referring to the increased loss in hives. Davidson, whose family has been beekeeping for almost 100 years, believes that it is these insecticides that are causing major damage to hives in Ontario. And what’s worse is the threat of prolonged use.
How these NNIs affect bees varies. Studies have found that it has multiple effects including disorienting bees, reducing disease resistance and making them less effective while foraging. Bees are integral to farmers: they contribute to 35 per cent of world crop pollination.
On Tuesday, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food (AGRI) heard from witnesses in the NNI debate, including farmers from Alberta, as well as John Cowan from the Ontario Grain Farmers Association and Pierre Patelle of CropLife, an organization that represents developers, manufacturers and distributors of pesticides and bio-chemistry products.
Tibor Szabo, vice-president of the Ontario Beekeepers Association was also at the hearing. His organization is calling for the ban of NNIs. “In the U.S. they call this loss ‘shrinkage.’ We call it chronic poisoning. Because that’s what it is.”
Other farmers across Canada aren’t reporting the same kinds of losses as those in Ontario and Quebec. Szabo believes the reason for this is two-fold: one, Alberta farmers don’t farm corn, but rather canola, and the way the insecticide is used is different. As well, more than 100,000 hives are rented by CropLife. “It’s a conflict of interest,” said Szabo.
Patelle believes that it’s not right to blame the bee deaths solely on NNIs. “The products have been used for about 10 years before we saw any incidents,” he says.
However, he does acknowledge that the NNI dust can be a contributing factor, just not the sole one. “Yes, for some acute incidents last year, dust from seeds was a factor… we’ll accept that. But we don’t accept that it’s contributing to a long-term decline in bee health.
“Any bee demise we’re seeing… everyone decides to draw a straight line to pesticides without seeing other causes to bee health.” Patelle sites the varroa mites, nutrition and disease as other factors.
But Szabo doesn’t buy into that kind of thinking. He says that the industry failed to conduct acceptable testing on how NNIs would affect bees. “The research should have been done before it was put into use,” he said. “Why was it released to begin with? Now they’re wanting all this research, which is great, but the bees are dying now.”
Patelle defends the use of insecticides. “Growers we speak to here in Ontario saw an improvemnt [in their crops],” he said.
“We have a vested interest to protect the environment,” he continued. “Without proper pollination, our [crops] don’t exist.”
Other countries seem to be taking issue with NNIs. Italy, France, Germany and Slovenia have all temporarily banned the use of NNIs on many of their seeds. On April 29, the European Union implemented a ban on the insecticide, which will take effect on December 1.
And some of the NNIs are causing concerns for people as well. Recently, the pesticide imidacloprid was found in drinking water in Long Island, New York. The concentration was as high as 407 parts per billion — far above the allowed 50 parts per billion. Although the pesticide is specifically targeted to work only on insects, its presence in water is making people uneasy.
Szabo says that the problem lies with the way the pesticides are applied. The chemical is highly water soluble and can remain in the water and soil for up to three years. That is how beekeepers think the bees are getting poisoned. “Orally, 3.68 parts per billion can kill 250 million bees,” Szabo says. ”Once we have certain levels, we won’t have bee life.
“This is a disaster in the making.”
According to the Canadian Honey Council, there are roughly 7,000 beekeepers in Canada operating about 600,000 colonies of honeybees.
The major honey producing provinces are Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. About 475,000 colonies are located within those provinces, producing 80 per cent of Canada’s honey crop.
Bees are key to farming.
They are efficient pollinators accounting for about 35 per cent of the world’s pollination.
Canada is the number one producer of canola in the world, and each year around 300,000 colonies of honeybees contribute to the annual crop of 12.6 million tonnes of pollinated canola oil seed.
The bees also pollinate many other crops important to Canada’s farming industry, including blueberries and apples.
Though Ontario and Quebec beekeepers are reporting major bee losses, the same isn’t being reported in the prairie provinces. But as Szabo points out, they grow canola, not corn.
Canada wrestles with bee-killing crop pesticides
Government recommends mitigation measures, not banCBC NEWS
Posted: May 3, 2013 3:27 PM ET
Last Updated: May 3, 2013 4:18 PM ET
Canadian government scientists have found evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides were linked to mass bee deaths during the spring corn planting in Ontario and Quebec in 2012. (Heinz-Peter Bader/Reuters)
Reversing the collapse of the honey bee industry25:51
Canadians beekeepers, farmers and regulators are wrestling with how to protect bees from popular pesticides that were partially banned in Europe this week.
The European Commission announced Monday that it would go ahead with a partial two-year ban on three kinds of neonicotinoid pesticides that have been linked to bee deaths. The pesticides are used to coat most commercial corn seeds and protect them from pests such as seed-eating insects.
Canadian government scientists have found evidence that neonicotinoid pesticides were linked to mass bee deaths during the spring corn planting in Ontario and Quebec in 2012, Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency confirmed in a report.
To ban or not to ban?
That has some people, such as Dan Davidson, president of the Ontario Beekepers' Association, calling for the use of the neonicotinoid pesticides to be restricted in Canada also.
"I think the best for beekeepers would be a ban," he told CBC's The Current. "We have to call for replacement of these chemicals. We won't be able to keep going on if they continue to be used at the rates they're being used now."
The environmental advocacy group Sierra Club Canada is similarly calling for a Canada to take the pesticides off the market until they have been proven safe.
However, Kevin Armstrong, a farmer who grows corn, wheat and soybean south of Woodstock, Ont., said neonicotinoid pesticides are essential for protecting corn seeds and seedlings during their crucial first month.
"It is a kind of insurance policy for us," he told The Current. "The vigour of the whole plant is assured for the whole season."
Armstrong said neonicotinoids are largely responsible for a 15 per cent increase in Ontario corn yields over the past 15 years, and so a ban on them could cause a significant loss. A loss of 10 per cent translates into about $100 an acre, he said. If Ontario farmers plant 2.3 million acres of corn as expected, that could amount to a $230-million loss.
"It works out to a significant economic setback for us."
2012 mass deaths unprecedented
Mary Mitchell, director-general of the environmental assessment directorate with Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, said neonicotinoid pesticides have been registered in Canada for 10 to 15 years and mass bee deaths linked to them had never been reported before last year.
"So we do think the weather may have been a factor," she said, noting that it had been an unusually early, warm dry spring.
She said regulators are working to prevent that happening again, but she did not mention any talk of restrictions on the use of the pesticides.
Instead, she said the government is encouraging farmers to communicate better with beekeepers and to using planting equipment that minimizes the production of dust, which is thought to be a major way bees are exposed to the pesticides.
The government is also working with the agricultural industry on ways to get the pesticide coating to stick better to the seed so it can't come off and harm the bees.
Tracy Baute, who leads the field crop entomology program at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, said more studies are underway to find out exactly how bees are exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides.
However, in the meantime, she recommends that farmers:
The reports of mass bee deaths in Ontario and Quebec in 2012 took place around the time that two scientific studies were published showing that bees can be harmed by even low levels of neonicotinoids.
Many bee species have been declining in North America and Europe, and some have even gone extinct or are believed to be close to extinction. Meanwhile, honeybees have been reported dying or disappearing en masse since 2006. In addition to pesticides, there is evidence that fungi, viruses, or parasites may play a role.
USDA Report on the National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health released
May 3, 2013 Read report
Why are bees dying? The U.S. and Europe have different theories.
Posted by Brad Plumer on May 3, 2013 at 3:11 pm
The mysterious collapse of bee colonies around the world has turned into a real crisis. In the United States, domesticated bee populations have reached a 50-year low and keep dwindling. The situation is just as dire in many other countries.
Not doing well. (Linda Davidson / The Washington Post)
And that’s bad news for all those crops that depend on bees. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that “out of some 100 crop species which provide 90% of food worldwide, 71 of these are bee-pollinated.” Around the world, these crops are worth at least $207 billion.
So why are bee colonies collapsing? And what’s the best way to halt the decline?
As it turns out, regulators in the United States and Europe are taking very different approaches to these questions. The European Union, for its part, is now moving to ban a certain class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, as a precautionary measure:
The European Commission will enact a two-year ban on a class of pesticides thought to be harming global bee populations, the European Union’s health commissioner said Monday. …
Mr. Borg made the announcement after representatives of the 27 E.U. member states failed for the second time in two months to reach a binding agreement on a proposal to ban the pesticides, known as neonicotinoids. The commission had proposed the ban after the European Food Safety Authority recommended in January that use of the pesticides be restricted until scientists determined whether they were contributing to a die-off in bee colonies.
Recent studies have found that neonicotinoids can adversely affect bee health, though there are still doubters. (One key question is whether lab results in this area are applicable to the real world.) Here’s how an overview in Nature puts it: “a growing body of research suggests that sublethal exposure to the pesticides in nectar and pollen may be harming bees too — by disrupting their ability to gather pollen, return to their hives and reproduce.” But other scientists insist “there is insufficient evidence to implicate these compounds.”
Even so, the European Commission is putting in place a two-year ban so that officials can review the evidence on the topic and “take into account relevant scientific and technical developments.”
In the United States, by contrast, regulators are moving more slowly. A big new report (pdf) out Thursday from the Agriculture Department and the Environmental Protection Agency argued there were a wide variety of reasons for the disappearance of U.S. honeybees since 2006. Neonicotinoids are only one possible factor. Here’s the summary:
–Consensus is building that a complex set of stressors and pathogens is associated with [colony collapse disorder], and researchers are increasingly using multi-factorial approaches to studying causes of colony losses.
–The parasitic mite Varroa destructor remains the single most detrimental pest of honey bees, and is closely associated with overwintering colony declines
–Multiple virus species have been associated with [colony collapse disorder].
–The bacterial disease European foulbrood is being detected more often in the U.S. and may be linked to colony loss.
–Nutrition has a major impact on individual bee and colony longevity.
–Acute and sublethal effects of pesticides on honey bees have been increasingly documented, and are a primary concern. Further tier 2 (semi-field conditions) and tier 3 (field conditions) research is required to establish the risks associated with pesticide exposure to U.S. honey bee declines in general.
The report emphasized the fact that the contribution of pesticides still needs further study: “It is not clear, based on current research, whether pesticide exposure is a major factor associated with U.S. honey bee health declines in general, or specifically affects production of honey or delivery of pollination services.”
As such, U.S. regulators aren’t ready to ban pesticides the way Europe just did. The EPA is slowly conducting a review on the topic that “should be completed in five years.” Over at the Hill, Julian Hattem got this quote from an agency official:
“As a matter of policy, we let the science lead our regulatory decision-making, and we want to make sure that we make accurate and appropriate regulatory decisions as opposed to things that could lead to meaningful societal cost without any benefit whatsoever,” said Jim Jones, acting EPA assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention.
It’s an interesting study in contrasts. The link between pesticides and bee die-offs is still subject to some dispute. So, in the face of uncertainty, the European Commission is erring on the side of the environment — voting to ban neonicotinoids for two years just in case they really are to blame for the bee collapse.
The United States, meanwhile, is erring on the side of certain economic interests — it’s still not clear that neonicotinoids are to blame, and pesticides are a billion-dollar industry, so regulators are moving slowly in setting restrictions.
CBC: Mass honeybee deaths linked to insecticides
April 30, 2013
In an effort to reduce health risks to honeybees, Ontario's agriculture ministry is asking grain farmers to take extra care when planting crops this spring.
A Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs entomologist said that "virtually all corn seed" is treated with a neonicotinoid insecticide, which could pose a threat to the health of honey bees. Tracey Baute said "neonicotinoid contaminated dust" is eventually carried into the air and could be linked to the death of thousands of bees.
Between April and June 2012, Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency received "an unusually high number of incident reports of bee losses" from across southern Ontario, Baute said. The agency said the reports involved 40 beekeepers and more than 200 bee yards.
The agency said the "timing and location of these incidents coincided with corn planting in major corn-producing regions" of Ontario.
Residues of nitro-guanidine neonicotinoid insecticides used to treat corn seed were detected in approximately 70 per cent the dead bee samples analyzed by the agency.
"The information evaluated to date suggests that insecticides used on treated corn seeds contributed to many of the 2012 spring bee losses," the Pest Management Regulatory Agency said in a report.
In Ontario, the ag ministry is asking farmers to better communicate with beekeepers who have hives in their area — bees can forage up to five kilometres from their hive. The ministry also encourages farmers to let local beekeepers know when they plan to plant.
Commercial beekeeper Tom Congdon, from Cottam, Ont., southeast of Windsor, owns Sun Parlor Honey. He has 2,000 commercial colonies spread across Essex and Wellington counties.
He claims some bees were poisoned by insecticides in the fields last year and that other bees brought pesticides and insecticides back to the hives. Congdon claims that dust was coming off the planted fields and drifting to dandelions too.
This year, he's working with local farmers, the University of Guelph and OMAFRA to study the effect pesticides have on bees.
"We’re going to place four colonies in two different locations and the University of Guelph and OMAFRA ... will do some research on the toxicity of the dust and collect dead bee samples from around the colony at planting time," he said.
Farmers are also being asked by OMAFRA to plant in the early morning or evening on windy days, when bees are less likely to be foraging.
"We cannot afford to neglect the role that pollinators play in agriculture and society in general," OMAFRA entomologist Tracey Baute wrote in a media release. "Planting time can be a frantically busy time but is important to do what we can to help protect the bees from any risks posed by agricultural practices."
Farmer Henry Denotter said modern farm equipment, not the insecticide, is to blame. Denotter said the equipment causes dust.
"Maybe we just have to do a little bit of tweaking to the equipment to minimize the effect," he said. "We need the insecticide. If we lose that, it would be totally detrimental to the grain industry."
He said yields would dramatically fall without the use of insecticide.
Many flowering plants require insects to transfer pollen — which contain sperm cells — to the female part of a flower in order to produce seeds, which are often enclosed in a fruit.
Honeybees, which aren't native to North America, are sometimes hired out and trucked from field to field in order to pollinate farmers' fields.
An international study he co-authored with a University of Calgary professor, found that wild pollinators are just as key to pollination.
Unfortunately, Lawrence Harder said, there is evidence that many wild pollinators are also on the decline.
30 Apr 2013: Report
Bee Populations Pose
A Threat to Global Agriculture
The danger that the decline of bees and other pollinators represents to the world’s food supply was highlighted this week when the European Commission decided to ban a class of pesticides suspected of playing a role in so-called “colony collapse disorder.”
by elizabeth grossman
One of every three bites of food eaten worldwide depends on pollinators, especially bees, for a successful harvest. And in the past several months, a scramble in California’s almond groves has given the world a taste of what may lie in store for food production if the widespread — and still puzzling — decimation of bee colonies continues.
For much of the past 10 years, beekeepers, primarily in the United States and Europe, have been reporting annual hive losses of 30 percent or higher, substantially more than is considered normal or sustainable. But this winter, many U.S. beekeepers experienced losses of 40 to 50 percent or more, just as commercial bee operations prepared to transport their hives for the country’s largest pollinator event: the fertilizing of California’s almond trees.
Spread across 800,000 acres, California’s almond orchards typically require 1.6 million domesticated bee colonies to pollinate the flowering trees and produce what has become the state’s largest overseas agricultural export. But given the widespread bee losses to so-called “colony collapse disorder” this winter, California’s almond growers were able to pollinate their crop only through an intense, nationwide push to cobble together the
‘In the long run, if we don't find some answers, we could lose a lot of bees,’ says one expert.
necessary number of healthy
“Other crops don’t need as many bees as the California almond orchards do, so shortages are not yet apparent, but if trends continue, there will be,” said Tim Tucker, vice-president of the American Beekeeping Federation and owner of Tuckerbees Honey in Kansas, which lost 50 percent of its hives this past winter. “Current [bee] losses are not sustainable. The trend is down, as is the quality of bees. In the long run, if we don’t find some answers, and the vigor continues to decline, we could lose a lot of bees.”
The gravity of the situation was underscored on Monday, when the European Commission (EC) said it intended to impose a two-year ban on a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, now the world’s most widely used type of insecticide. Neonicotinoids are one of the leading suspected causes of colony collapse disorder, and the European Commission announced its controversial decision three months after the European Food Safety Agency concluded that the pesticides represented a “high acute risk” to honeybees and other pollinators.
The EC action will restrict the use of three major neonicitinoids on seeds and plants attractive to bees, as well as grains, beginning December 1. “I pledge to my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22 billion Euros [$29 billion] annually to European agriculture, are protected,” said European Union Health Commissioner Tonio Borg.
The EC action comes as scientists and regulators have grown increasingly concerned about the impact of colony collapse disorder on the world’s food supply, given that the majority of the planet’s 100 most important food crops depend on insect pollination. A recent international study of 41 crop systems on six continents showed that healthy populations of wild bees are key to successful yields of crops ranging from pumpkins to grapefruit. Relying solely on domesticated honeybees could ultimately put those crops at risk, scientists say. Wild bees also have been declining in many places.
No one investigating the issue is suggesting that neonicotinoids are the sole cause of current bee declines. Tucker, other beekeepers, and entomologists say that the cause of colony collapse disorder is likely a combination of factors that includes the widespread use of pesticides and fungicides, as well as the spread of viral pathogens and parasitic mites in beehives. While mites and diseases have long been known to cause significant declines in domesticated bee populations, no single pathogen or parasite, say entomologists, appears to sufficiently explain the current rate of hive collapse.
A recent study that found unprecedented levels of agricultural pesticides — some at toxic levels — in honeybee colonies is prompting entomologists to look more closely at the role of neonicotinoids in current bee declines.
No one is suggesting that neonicotinoids are the sole cause of current bee declines.
Some studies have indicated that neonicotinoids can lead to a
sharp decline in queen bees in colonies and can also interfere with the ability
of bees to navigate back to their hives. James Frazier, a professor of
entomology at Pennsylvania State University, said more research needs to be
conducted into whether neonicotinoids, particularly in combination with other
pesticides, may suppress the immune system of bees at “sub-lethal” levels, enabling
diseases to take hold.
“This is uncharted territory,” said Purdue University associate professor of entomology Christian Krupke. “We’ve never done pest management like this before.”
While not downplaying neonicotinoids as a potential culprit, Eric Mussen, an apiculturiust at the University of California, Davis, noted that the case against these pesticides is not clear-cut. For example, honeybees are apparently doing fine in Australia, where neonicotinoids are widely used and varroa mites are not a problem. Neonicotinoid use is common in Canada, but colony collapse disorder is not significantly affecting hives there.
University of California
Honeybees are brought in to pollinate onion crops at a California farm.
In the U.S., several
national environmental advocacy organizations and commercial beekeepers filed
suit in March against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its
conditional registration of certain neonicotinoids, contending that the agency
did not properly ensure environmental health protections, particularly with
respect to pollinators.
The EPA is now reviewing its registration of neonicotinoids and has accelerated the review schedule due “to uncertainties about these pesticides and their potential effects on bees.” The agency said in an email that it is working with beekeepers, growers, pesticide manufacturers, and others to improve pesticide use, labeling, and management practices to protect bees and to thoroughly evaluate the effects of pesticides on honeybees and other pollinators. As part of these efforts, the EPA is working with pesticide and agricultural equipment manufacturers to reduce the release of neonicotinoid-contaminated dust during planting — a time when commercial bees are likely to encounter the insecticide.
In the U.S., neonicotinoids are currently used on about 95 percent of corn and canola crops; the majority of cotton, sorghum, and sugar beets; and about half of all soybeans. They’re also used on the vast majority of fruit and vegetable crops, including apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes. Neonicotinoids are also applied to cereal grains, rice, nuts, and wine grapes.
Charles Benbrook, research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, has estimated that neonicotinoids are used on approximately 75 percent of the acres devoted to these crops in the U.S. They are also widely used on landscaping plants and urban trees and in numerous home garden pest-control products — all in places frequented by bees, domesticated and wild.
“There is no place to go hide,” says New York beekeeper Jim Doan, a director of the American Beekeeping Federation. “The outlook is not good.”
When governments around the world registered and approved these insecticides for use in the 1990s, many questions about the environmental impacts of neonicotinoids were left unanswered. Neonicotinoids were welcomed as a safer alternative to previous generations of pesticides,
‘These compounds are a nightmare scenario for pollinators,’ says one beekeeper.
particularly organochlorines (such as DDT) and organophosphates,
which have known adverse environmental and human health effects. Neonicotinoids
attack insects by harming their nervous systems and are considered of low
toxicity to mammals. They are also typically used as systemic pesticides —
meaning that they stay with the plant as it grows — and are applied as seed
treatments, to roots, or into tree trunks, rather than applied with as a spray.
This greatly reduces the potential for human exposure compared to other
But because the insecticide stays with the plant as it grows, it raises questions about the potential for bees to be exposed through nectar, pollen, or leaf surface moisture, where a growing number of studies are finding evidence of neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are known to be toxic to bees, earthworms, and other terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, as was noted in documents submitted to the EPA when they were registered.
“The motivation for producing neonicotinoids was reduced human toxicity, but the environmental and ecosystem impacts were not considered in enough detail to predict what’s going on,” says Frazier of Penn State.
“These compounds are a nightmare scenario for pollinators,” says Steve Ellis, a Minnesota-based beekeepeer whose bees primarily pollinate California almonds. “There is no way to prevent exposure to these chemicals. The only question is the exposure level, whether that is a problem or not. The pesticide industry claims not. The beekeeping industry says yes.”
Both Doan and Ellis have experienced dramatic losses of bees in recent years, including complete hive failures. Both say their bees and hives have tested positively for neonicotinoids. Yet in both cases the agricultural authorities and pesticide manufacturers who participated in testing the damaged hives said the insecticides’ presence was not conclusively linked to the bees’ deaths. Doan and Ellis are now part of the lawsuit filed against the EPA.
The pesticides’ manufacturers, among them Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, and their trade association, CropLife America, say that neonicotinoids are safe if used as directed. These compounds are biologically active for the limited periods of time when the products’ target insects are active, say their manufacturers, who point to independent tests showing that risks of adverse impacts to bees and “non-target” insects are minimal.
MORE FROM YALE e360
In the past dozen years, three new diseases have decimated
populations of amphibians, honeybees, and — most recently — bats. Increasingly,
scientists suspect that low-level exposure to pesticides could be contributing to
this rash of epidemics.
“We can use them safely and not endanger the
health of bees,” says David Fischer environmental toxicologist with Bayer
CropScience. “There is not a correlation with the use of these products and the
loss of colonies. What tends to be publicized is not an accurate reflection of
the weight of the evidence.”
CropLife America senior director of regulatory policy, Ray McAllister, says only a small quantity of pesticide is applied to the seed, precisely where its needed. He said the major effects are during the plant’s early growth stages and that as the plant grows, the pesticide’s active ingredient is diluted and breaks down. This, he explained, “reduces by orders of magnitude the amount present in the plant when it flowers. If the dose is extremely low it is not going to be toxic.”
Yet recent studies by entomologist Kimberly Stoner and colleagues at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station have found two neonicotinoids, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, in the nectar and pollen of squash to which the pesticides were applied as directed. Published research by environmental chemists at the U.S. Geological Survey documents the presence of neonicotinoids in rivers and streams. Data collected by Washington State’s Benbrook and colleagues also shows residues in numerous foods.
“There’s going to be a shortage of bees in this entire growing season,” Frazier said of the U.S. situation. “The ability to replace bees that have been lost has been exhausted, so there’s a very large question mark about next year. Whether we’ve reached a point of no return, we don’t know.”
POSTED ON 30 Apr 2013 IN Biodiversity Biodiversity Policy & Politics Policy & Politics Science & Technology Asia Europe North America
OBA PRESS RELEASE: Ontario Beekeepers call for the suspension of neonicotinoid pesticides
May 3, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ontario beekeepers call for the suspension of neonicotinoid pesticides
Milton, Ontario, May 3, 2013: The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA) congratulates the EU on Monday’s decision to ban the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam) which have also been tied to the devastation of thousands of bee colonies in Ontario.
“The EU vote clearly shows there is scientific and public support around the globe for policies which protect honey bees and other pollinators and recognize their essential role in food production and healthy ecosystems,’ said Dan Davidson, President of the OBA.
In 2012, Ontario experienced widespread losses of more than 5,000 colonies in various locations throughout the Province. At the time of the poisonings, Ontario beekeepers suspected that the neonicotinoid insecticides used in corn seed treatment were the cause of both bee kills and the decline of colonies near corn and soybean plantings.
The federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) recently confirmed those fears in their report “Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities that coincided with Corn Planting in Spring 2012”: “The information evaluated suggests that planting of corn seeds treated with the nitroguanidine insecticides clothianidin and/or thiamethoxam contributed to the majority of the bee mortalities that occurred in corn growing regions of Ontario and Quebec in Spring 2012.”
The OBA believes that the health of Ontario’s food production system is at stake. “Ontario’s fruit and vegetable farmers depend on adequate pollination by honey bees, bumble bees and wild bees. We encourage the Government of Ontario to reassess the bee safety of all neonicotinoid pesticide products and suspend all conditional registrations until we understand how to manage the risks posed by these products to honey bees and other pollinators,” says Davidson.
Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that are absorbed into plant tissues. They are highly soluble in water and will leach into our ground water supply and contaminate the soil. They are routinely applied to corn and soybeans and a variety of agricultural crops with sprays, seed coatings, soil drenches and granules. Neonicotinoids are highly toxic to bees. They migrate through soil and the entire plant all the way to the flowers. This causes toxic, lethal and chronic exposure to multiple species, including pollinators, earthworms, birds and fish.
Since 1881 the Ontario Beekeepers Association has represented the interests of Ontario beekeepers. We work to ensure a thriving and sustainable beekeeping industry in Ontario. To this end, we advocate for beekeepers’ interests, support honey bee health research and deliver practical training and information. For more information: www.ontariobee.com
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President, Ontario Beekeepers Association
Vice President, Ontario Beekeepers Association
Tibor Szabo <email@example.com>
Dandelion honey, a new gourmet food? Well, not exactly, but surprisingly it's the notorious dandelion that gives bees a healthy start after a long winter in the hive. Ontario's 3,000 beekeepers have been examining their hives to calculate overwintering losses. In the winter of 2010/11, the losses were 43 percent of hives compared to traditional norms of 10 percent. From October through April, freezing temperatures and lack of forage limit Ontario's bees from venturing out from their hives. If the queen bee dies, the colony is lost. Some beekeepers with overwintering success credit the genetics of their queen bees which are bred to be parasite resistant. Of course, diligent hive management is also key to colony survival. The health of the Ontario bee industry is a concern to farmers and consumers alike. Consider that every third bite of food is the result of pollination by bees. That surprising fact is not something we think about while spreading honey on breakfast toast. How often do we give credit to bees which pollinate everything from alfalfa to zucchini? Bees transfer pollen from the anthers of a flower to the stigma of the same flower or another plant. Pollination is needed to fertilize the plant so that it can develop seeds. Wind moves the pollen for some plants such as grasses. Others need to have the physical transfer of pollen by an insect which is usually a bee. In Ontario, pollination is key to some fruit and vegetable crops with an estimated worth of $170 million. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada estimates that the value of pollination to Canadian agriculture is worth more than $1 billion per year. Pollination season begins once temperatures reach 10 degrees Celsius. Bees then become active, foraging up to 5 kilometres from the hive for food. Pollen is gathered from early-blooming sources such as pussy willows and alders, then move on to dandelions. This valuable protein, kick starts the bees for a strenuous season, moving from tender fruits in May to vegetables in June and canola in July. In fact, some Ontario hives are transported as far afield as Quebec and New Brunswick to pollinate blueberries and cranberries. By late May, the Ontario honey season is well underway. With many farmers' markets opening on Victoria Day weekend, be sure to look for stalls with local honey producers. With 100 percent Ontario honey in your cupboard, you can incorporate this local ingredient into your menus more often. We welcome enquiries about 100 percent Ontario honey.