Local beekeepers are finding millions of their bees dead just after corn was planted here in the last few weeks. Dave Schuit, who has a honey operation in Elmwood, lost 600 hives, a total of 37 million bees.
“Once the corn started to get planted our bees died by the millions,” Schuit said. He and many others, including the European Union, are pointing the finger at a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids, manufactured by Bayer CropScience Inc. used in planting corn and some other crops. The European Union just recently voted to ban these insecticides for two years, beginning December 1, 2013, to be able to study how it relates to the large bee kill they are experiencing there also.
Local grower Nathan Carey from the Neustadt, and National Farmers Union Local 344 member, says he noticed this spring the lack of bees and bumblebees on his farm. He believes that there is a strong connection between the insecticide use and the death of pollinators.
“I feel like we all have something at stake with this issue,” he said. He is organizing a public workshop and panel discussion about this problem at his farm June 22 at 10 a.m. He hopes that all interested parties can get together and talk about the reason bees, the prime pollinators of so any different plant species, are dying.
At the farm of Gary Kenny, south west of Hanover, eight of the 10 hives he kept for a beekeeper out of Kincardine, died this spring just after corn was planted in neighbouring fields.
What seems to be deadly to bees is that the neonicotinoid pesticides are coating corn seed and with the use of new air seeders, are blowing the pesticide dust into the air when planted. The death of millions of pollinators was looked at by American Purdue University. They found that, “Bees exhibited neurotoxic symptoms, analysis of dead bees revealed traces of thiamethoxam/clothianidin in each case. Seed treatments of field crops (primarily corn) are the only major source of these compounds.
Local investigations near Guelph, led to the same conclusion. A Pest Management Regulatory Agency investigation confirmed that corn seeds treated with clothianidin or thiamethoxam “contributed to the majority of the bee mortalities” last spring.
“The air seeders are the problem,” said Ontario Federation of Agriculture director Paul Wettlaufer, who farms near Neustadt. This was after this reporter called John Gillespie, OFA Bruce County president, who told me to call Wettlaufer. Unfortunately, Wettlaufer said it was, “not a local OFA issue,” and that it was an issue for the Grain Farmers of Ontario and representative, Hennry Vanakum should be notified. Vanakum could not be rached for comment.
Yet Guelph University entomologist Peter Kevan, disagreed with the EU ban.
“There’s very little evidence to say that neonicotinoids, in a very general sense, in a broad scale sense, have been a major component in the demise of honeybees or any other pollinators, anywhere in the world,” said Kevan.
But research is showing that honeybee disorders and high colony losses have become a global phenomena. An international team of scientists led by Holland’s Utrecht University concluded that, ”Large scale prophylaxic use in agriculture, their high persistence in soil and water, and their uptake by plants and translocation to flowers, neonicotinoids put pollinator services at risk.” This research and others rsulted in the Eurpean Union ban.
The United Church is also concerned about the death of so many pollinators and has prepared a “Take Action” paper it’s sending out to all its members. The church is basing its action on local research. The Take Action paper states among other things, “Scientific information gathered suggests that the planting of corn seeds treated with neonicotinoids contributed to the majority of the bee mortalities that occurred in corn growing regions of Ontario and Quebec in Spring 2012.”
Meanwhile Schuit is replacing his queen bees every few months now instead of years, as they are dying so frequently. “OMAFRA tells me to have faith. Well, I think it’s criminal what is happening, and it’s hard to have faith if it doesn’t look like they are going to do anything anyway,” Schuit says.