Michaelnivelet | Dreamstime.com
What is killing large numbers of bees around the globe?
Until fairly recently the betting favourite was the Varroa mite, and some researchers are still with that as the most likely cause.
Notable among those are the manufacturers of the neonicotinoid insecticides, which includes the giant companies of Bayer and Syngenta.
Others say it is the neonicotinoids, and if that is true, the irony will be that this pesticide was designed to safeguard non-pest insects. Neonicotinoids are a synthetic version of nicotine and are toxic to most insects. Neonicotinoids were thought to be safer because the pesticide is coated onto the seed of the agricultural product, which is then buried so it was deemed impossible for other insects that didn’t eat the plant down to the seed to be exposed.
Some research suggests this is not working out as planned. During planting the insecticide becomes airborne behind big agricultural equipment and, according to Val Fournier from Laval University, toxic amounts of the chemical could be found on the surface of water puddles two to three weeks after planting corn that was coated with the insecticide.
The Sierra Club of Canada released a list of 20 papers it says supports the ban of neonicotinoids. Europe has put a two-year moratorium in place on three pesticides (Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam). In Ontario, the Liberal government has put in place a ‘Bee Mortality Working Group’ to study the impact of the insecticides.
In Ottawa, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency says it will advise farmers to adhere to a voluntary ban in 2014, but won’t make any ruling until 2018.