The Buzz on Pesticides and Pollinators

Pesticides and Pollinators

One common pest control option (particularly with corn) is the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides. This practice involves treating for pests before they are present (eradicant or preventative use), as opposed to reacting with a series of options after pests have become present. The idea is that because the seed is treated, fewer chemicals need to be sprayed on the growing crop.

In recent years there have been questions about the link between neonicotinoid treated seeds and honey bee mortalities, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, and
increasingly in Manitoba. Research by Health Canada determined that corn seed treated with neonicotinoids caused a proportion of honey bee deaths in 2012 and 2013 in those regions of Canada.100 The death of bees is an issue because bees (including honey bees and many native bee species) are needed for the production of many food crops, including alfalfa which is used for livestock feed.

In response, the pesticide industry, international regulatory agencies, growers, beekeepers and equipment manufacturers worked together to develop Best Management Practices (options that can be used to reduce risk to pollinating insects). These Best Management Practices are being shared widely to raise awareness and address this issue.101 It is also important that research into
the health of pollinator insects considers a variety of potential threats, such as weather, diseases and pests (varroa mites and diseases), in addition to neonicotinoids.102 This will ensure that appropriate solutions are found to address this important matter.