I admit it. The possibility of a bee sting made me uneasy, and I more than likely mixed up a bee and a wasp mid-swat. I certainly didn’t think much about the honey or wild native bees’ ongoing survival. There are millions of them out there, right?
Well, when news went mainstream this summer that neonics, a class of harmful neurotoxic insecticides used in agriculture was linked to the decline of bee populations, I began giving our buzzing buddies a second glance. In fact, I started noticing them (or lack of) everywhere. When studies showed that Ontario beekeepers lost 58 percent of their colonies over the past winter due partly to pesticide damage, I couldn’t help but worry that these precious pollinators — so crucial to our food supply — could be wiped out.
Turns out I’m not alone. A poll commissioned by Physicians for the Environment, Ontario Nature and the David Suzuki Foundation revealed that 87 percent of Ontarians are concerned about the threat posed by “neonic” pesticides to bees and wildlife. It also showed that more than eight out of 10 Ontarians want the government to act “as quickly as possible” to protect pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
As Canadian regulators continue their slow review of the controversial neonicotinoid, a new closely-related chemical has become the latest buzz — flupyradifurone. Like neonics, this insect-killing systemic pesticide gets absorbed into plants’ roots, stems, leaves, fruit, pollen and nectar, becoming potent and persistent against target pests, as well as bees.
Although Health Canada says flupyradifurone may pose a risk to bees, birds, worms, spiders, small mammals and aquatic bugs — regulators may still approve it.
Beekeepers and conservation groups, such as Ontario Nature and its Youth Council, have been leading the way in calling on the government to protect pollinators and restrict the use of these pesticides.
This summer, more and more Canadians became informed about the plight of bees and their role in our ecosystem. It’s one thing to buff up on the who’s-who in the pollinator world and create a more bee-friendly yard in support of them. But for regulators to take notice, more concerned Ontarians need to take a serious stance and speak up about this biodiversity crisis.
Renee Tratch is a prairie-born, Toronto-based writer with an eye for the greener side of city. You’ll most often find her exploring with kids in tow. You can follow her family-friendly wanderings at www.KidsinTO.com.