Every once in a while when I am walking through Thickson’s Woods in Whitby, I catch a glimpse of gold dancing over the meadow. Tragically, these magical encounters are becoming uncommon. The dramatic population decline of monarchs is of concern to scientists and naturalists, and of interest to the media.
By now, most of us know about the sad fate of the monarch, but society is less aware of or concerned about the decline of pollinators in general. This may be because many humans fear some of these pollinators including bees, wasps and beetles, and have no idea how vital they are to our lives. This is why the Ontario Nature Youth Council is running a pollinator campaign to create a buzz at the local and provincial level.
Just a few months ago, a new word was added to my vocabulary: neonicotinoids, which is a new class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine. Neonicotinoids are unfamiliar to most people despite the fact that they lace much of our produce. Although effects of neonicotinoids on human health are still being debated, the alarming impacts on pollinators are well-documented.
In 2012, Ontario bee farmers experienced widespread losses of more than 5,000 colonies in various locations throughout the province as a direct result of neonicotinoid poisoning. The quantities required to destroy insect life are astonishingly small. By volume, these chemicals are 10,000 times as powerful as DDT. Ontario’s agricultural industry is of great economic and cultural significance, and pollinators are fundamental to its success. One-third of what we eat – things like apples, chocolate, cucumbers and almonds – depends upon pollinators.
After several years of pollinator declines, farmers are wondering what the tipping point will be for food production. When will the disappearance of honey bees, wild bees and other pollinators limit their ability to feed Ontarians?
Pollinators and plants are an example of symbiosis – they rely on one another to survive. Unfortunately, we aren’t recognizing the interconnectedness of our own survival to pollinators. It’s time that we start investigating new solutions and implementing the ones that already exist to protect pollinators in Ontario.
The provincial government has the power to place restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids. The youth council is encouraging such action through a postcard campaign and a social media challenge. We need 500 people to endorse our pollinator campaign by May 14th for our message to be broadcast through the networks of all the endorsers. Please endorse our campaign today!
You can also support pollinators by planting flowers in your garden that provide food and shelter for bees and butterflies. Examples include wild strawberry, common and swamp milkweed, butterfly weed, Golden Alexander and New England aster. More information can be found on the North American Native Plant Society website.
We must all do our part to protect the pollinators that are inextricably linked to our survival.