Bee Health Worries Southwestern Ontarians

A recent poll shows that residents of Southwestern Ontario are more concerned about bee health than ever.

The poll, done by Friends of the Earth Canada, shows that people are worried about the effect that neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides have on the bee population.

The pesticide is used to keep bugs away by drenching soil in a plant’s early stages of growth or coating seeds with the chemicals. The use of the pesticide has led to widespread bee deaths in Ontario and beyond.

In a poll of 1,000 people from Southwestern Ontario, the study found:

  • More than five out of ten respondents (54.5%) are concerned with pesticides such as neonics contaminating soil and ground water sources in Ontario.
  • More than seven out of ten respondents (73.2%) think farmers should have the option of being able to purchase seeds that are not coated with neonic pesticides.
  • More than seven out of ten (74.1%) are concerned about the wide spread killing of honey bees by the use of neonic pesticides in Ontario.
  • Almost eight out of ten (76.8%) believe gardeners should be able to buy plants that are free of bee-poisoning neonicotinoids from garden centres.

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth, says a decreasing bee population is not good for producing food.

“If we don’t have them, we’re not going to have blueberries, cranberries, squashes. They all rely on pollenation,” says Olivastri. “If we wipe out the bees, we are facing some severe times just in terms of providing food on the table.”

Olivastri hopes the provincial government will take bigger steps to protect bees from neonics.

On Monday, Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal said the government is looking at restricting the use of the pesticide to those who are licensed to use it. Leal says he has no timeline for when the decision will be made on what steps the government will take to protect bees, but says he hopes to have a system in place by the 2015 planting season.

Olivastri congratulated the minister on his steps to mitigate bee deaths, but says the proposed plan doesn’t cover horticulture, only agriculture.