Let’s save the bees while we can

There’s been a lot of buzz lately around neonicotinoid pesticides. Bees have been on a severe decline over the last half century as neonic pesticide use increases.

Canada must ban neonics to save the bees while we still can.

In less than a month, Health Canada will be even closer to implementing a full-on ban of imidacloprid, one of the most widely use bee-killing neonic pesticides in the world.

Health Canada already issued a federal phase-out of a pesticide known as imidacloprid in November 2016 because of the risk to aquatic insects.

A risk assessment report by Health Canada that the current use of the pesticide is “not sustainable” and the levels found in waterways and aquatic environments “are harmful to aquatic insects,” including mayflies and midges. These insects are important food sources for fish, birds, and other things. They have proposed a phase out of the neonicotinoid in 3-5 years.

According to Senate documents on bee health, imidacloprid has a chemical structure related to nicotine. It works by interfering with the nerve impulses of insects, resulting in death.

In June 2014, an independent group of scientists released an analysis of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed scientific articles on the impacts of neonic pesticides. According to the analysis, they found the chemicals can be “persistent and pervasive” throughout the environment. They also claimed the pesticides posed an “unacceptable risk” to biodiversity, including important species such as earthworms and pollinators- like bees.

So what’s the big buzz on bees? It is often said bees are responsible for 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat.

According to a 2015 Senate report on the bee health in Canada, honey bee pollination is worth billions of dollars domestically and globally.

In Western Canada alone, about 300,000 honey bee colonies are used to pollinate seeds for canola each year.

As a result of the provincial and even global importance of pollinators to food and seed production, bee colony losses could be detrimental to the production of food and seed crop.

Most crops grown for their fruits such as squash and cucumber, nuts, seeds, fiber (such as cotton), and hay all require pollination by insects like bees. Canada needs to ban these neonics for the sake of the food they put on the table every day. Bees provide so much service to humans and we need to take care of them properly.

Bees also provide important ecosystem services, according to the Senate report. For example, some birds depend on seeds and fruits in the forest that are directly produced through the pollination of wild plants.

Most flowering plants also need pollination to reproduce, and bees are responsible for about 70 per cent of that pollination. A bee decline will therefore affect the survival of other animal and plant species.

Vancouver and Montreal have already voted to ban neonicotinoids. Ontario has regulated three neonics, and Quebec is now considering stricter regulations on neonics. But a complete Canada-wide ban has never been presented-until now.

Health Canada launched a 70-day consultation period to take public comments before it will consider a complete ban. This opportunity won’t come around again-we have to seize it now. Public comments will be taken until February 21, 2017.

Health Canada needs to hear from you.

How do you get involved? Go to SumofUs.org/canada-let-s-save-the-bees-for-good to submit your thoughts on the ban. The petition website will send your comment directly to Health Minister Jane Philpott. Let’s save the bees, for their sake-and our own.

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Nicole O'Brien is a second year journalist student at Durham College. She enjoys writing about the campus, entertainment and sports for The Chronicle. Her work can also be seen on her entertainment blog, www.entertainmentgirl.wordpress.com and also on the lifestyle blog Godigio. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys watching movies and listening to music. She hopes to one day work for an entertainment news network on either radio or television.