Opinions differ on how neonicotinoids effect bees


ONTARIO—While a new report indicates neonicotinoids, a crop-seed pesticide, doesn’t pose any hazard to honeybees, a representative of the Sudbury District Beekeepers Association (SDBA) (which includes Manitoulin Island) doesn’t share the same opinion.

“I went on the Health Canada website, and read quite a bit on the report,” said Robert Dewar, in an interview with the Recorder this past Monday. “It all seems to be up in the air. From what I am reading I think they are hedging their bets when they say use of neonicotinoids with corn and canola doesn’t seem to have much effect on bees.”

“But, this is a tricky area,” said Mr. Dewar. “I know the pesticide industry has spent tons of money on disclaimers that neonics have any effect on bees.”

“I’m not pretending to be any kind of an authority, but what bothers me is that the colonization-collapse, disorder and death of bees suspiciously has occurred at exactly the same time as neonicotinoids were introduced,” explained Mr. Dewar.

The London Free Press reported in its January 7, 2016 edition that in a  bare-bones pre-release summary, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency says neonics applied directly to the soil might put pollinators at risk. But it states as well, “no potential risk to bees was indicated for seed use.”

That sentence is a vindication to grain farmers, who have long defended their use of the pesticide as necessary to their livelihoods, reported the Free Press. But it’s also feeding, rather that quelling, a conflict that has raged among farmers, beekeepers, environmentalists and legislators.

“Skeptical is not a strong enough word,” Albert DeVries, an Aylmer beekeeper who is also a director of the Ontario Beekeepers Association, told the Free Press, in response to the agency’s report. He said if neonic see treatments are harmless at planting time, “then how come we had buckets of dead bees near the hives in 2012? And if there’s no acute or long-term impact, the federal agency should tell that to all the dead bees.”

DeVries said the report flies in the face of previous statements of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, including its conclusion in 2013 that the continued use of neonics is ‘unsustainable.”

But Grain Farmers of Ontario says the report proves its position that Ontario’s new neonic rules, the most restrictive in North America, are unnecessary.

Beekeepers have long linked massive bee deaths that have taken place during and after corn and soybeans planting to farmer’s use of neonics.