Neonicotinoids, or "neonics" for short, are a relatively new class of pesticides that are increasingly being shown to have a negative impact on our ecosystem, and in particular, on pollinators. On this page are a variety of documents and links to help you learn more about this important issue. Visit our Pesticides and Pollinators page for more general information on pesticides and pollinators.
Neonicotinoid insecticides are a class of pesticide that is widely used across Ontario and internationally: nearly 100% of all corn and 60% of all soybean seeds planted in Ontario are currently coated with the insecticide. As the plant grows, the insecticide is incorporated into the plant tissues, protecting it from a variety of pest insects that may attack it from seedling through harvest stages. However, research is now showing the negative impact of the neonics on pollinators and our ecosystems, from neonics contaminating the pollen and nectar and affecting the pollinators that eat it, to broader impacts, such as the leaching of the neonics into the soil and water with negative impacts on many other types of animals from birds to frogs. The effects can be immediately lethal, such as has been seen with some honeybee colonies dying during corn planting periods in recent years, but can also sub-lethal, with less obvious impacts such as honeybee workers having trouble navigating and bringing less pollen and nectar back to the hive and bumble bee queens having a much reduced reproductive output resulting in smaller and weaker colonies.
Upon investigating several large scale honeybee deaths, Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency issued a report in 2013 that stated "current agricultural practices related to the use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soybean seed are not sustainable". Other research, including a recent review by the US Environmental Protection Agency, has concluded that there is generally no greater yields by using neonic pesticides as compared to not using them. There have been countless scientific papers, newspaper articles, and reports and presentations on these topics. While some find no negative impacts of neonics, the vast majority have shown concerning results.
Given the weight of accumulating evidence of the harmful impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees and other animals including the acknowledgement by the Federal Government that these pesticides are affecting bees, Pollination Guelph supports a ban on the use of neonicotinoids. Although there are other threats facing pollinators and contributing to their decline, the use of neonics needs to be restricted before they cause further harm.
The Ontario Pollinator Health Action Plan and Pollination Guelph's Responses
The province of Ontario is interested in increasing the health of our pollinators (see its site here) and as part of this desire, released a draft "Pollinator Health Action Plan" in Januray 2016. It is asking for the public's feedback on this plan by March 7, 2016 (see section below on what you can do to thelp). Pollination Guelph will be submitting comments and will soon provide an excerpt for the public on this site.
As a lead up to this plan, the government released its "Pollinator Health: A Proposal for Enhancing Pollinator Health and Reducing the Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides in Ontario" discussion paper in the fall of 2014. It passed a regulation in June 2015 that aims to have a 50% reduction in the use of neonics on corn and soybeans in the province by 2016 and an 80% reduction by 2017. The government asked for input from the public and all interested parties on this proposal. Below are materials from Pollination Guelph's on this topic:
Response to the "Open Letter to Ontarians" about Neonics and Honeybee Health
While many environmental, beekeeping, and even some agricultural organizations (amongst numerous others) in the provice are calling for a reduction in the use of neonics, there is a coalition of groups from the crop protection industry and certain agricultural organizations that launched a campaign in January 2015 that is trying to sway public opinion on this important topic in the hopes of avoiding regulations on the use of neonics. This has included full page ads, funded by CropLife Canada, in newspapers across the province with an "Open Letter to Ontarians".
Pollination Guelph believes that this campaign presents misleading information about the impacts of neonics on bee health. We also believe that the debate it is causing about the effects of neonics on honeybees draws attention away from the larger issues of neonics in the environment, as well as the health of our pollinators and their habitat in general. We wrote a brief opinion piece on this topic in February 2015 that was published in the Guelph Mercury.
Below are links to two documents that we believe do a very good job of disecting the claims in the coalition's "Open Letter":
What can you do to help?
Individuals can fill out an online survey about the province's Pollinator Health Action Plan here and send additional feedback through the Environmental Registry before March 7, 2016. We encourage all Ontario residents to let their MPPs know that they support the province's proposal (click here for a list of MPPs and their contact information).
We also encourage everyone to plant for pollinators: the more habitat we create, whether it be raspberries for stem-nesting bees or milkweed for monarch caterpillars, the more resistant our pollinators can be to the many stressors they face. This can be as simple as a pot of flowers on your balcony or as complex as a series of connected hedgerows and field margins on your farm. There are a large number of resources on our website to help you with this - explore them today and learn more about the important topic of pollinators and pollination.