Bee health concerns require broader perspectives

OTTAWA, Oct. 29, 2013 /CNW/ - A holistic view of the challenges facing bee populations in a region of southern Ontario is required to protect honey bees.

Despite wide-spread international agreement that bee health is impacted by a combination of factors, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) continues to focus exclusively on the role of neonicotinoid pesticides in one specific Canadian region. Canada's plant science industry is calling on the Canadian government to broaden its examination of the issue to ensure other problems facing pollinators - and the experience of beekeepers in other parts of the country - are not overlooked as solutions to this important, but complex, situation are sought.

For example, around the world beekeepers identify the Varroa mite as the primary threat to honeybee health. Additionally, a number of the hive health challenges described in the PMRA interim report are consistent with symptoms of known honey bee diseases.

Several relevant facts frequently disregarded in the on-going investigation into what has harmed bees in southern Ontario and parts of Quebec, include:

  • The vast majority of Canada's approximately 7,600 beekeepers have not reported short or long-term effects on their bees as a result of neonicotinoids.
  • Since the early 2000s, when neonicotinoids were first introduced, the number of honey bees has increased to near-record levels. In 2012 over 700,000 honey bee colonies were reported Canada-wide, up from 600,000 in 2000. This trend is mirrored in both Quebec and Ontario.
  • In Western Canada, close to 20 million acres of canola, the majority of which is treated with a neonicotinoid, is planted and bee health remains strong. And canola, unlike corn, is a crop that bees feed heavily on. Over 70 per cent of Canada's bee colonies reside in this region.
  • Globally, there are regions that use no neonicotinoids experiencing major bee losses while other regions that make widespread use of these tools have healthy, thriving bee populations. For example, in Australia where farmers rely on neonicotinoids, bee populations are flourishing.

Following 2012 reports of incidents, the plant science industry took steps to provide additional protection for bees from exposure to pesticides. These steps include:

  • Developing a comprehensive set of best management practices for planting insecticide-treated corn during the handling, pre-planting and planting phases of seeding;
  • Working with regulators to develop new language for treated seed bags to better inform growers about potential impacts of seed dust on pollinators;
  • Encouraging greater collaboration and communication between growers and beekeepers; and
  • Introducing a new fluency agent to reduce dust associated with seed planting.

Research into the various challenges threatening pollinator health is absolutely necessary and Canada's plant science industry is committed to continuing to initiate and support research on this important topic; however, we expect government will ensure their work is broad enough to ensure that all potential threats to honey bees are fairly and thoroughly examined and based on scientific, evidence-based data.

SOURCE CropLife Canada




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