The Bee Cause
Bees are critical to food security
Two-thirds of the food crops humans eat everyday require bees and other pollinators to successfully produce a crop. However- the health and productivity of honeybees, bumble bees, and other pollinators are in great peril, and populations are dwindling worldwide.
Although honey bee losses have been linked to multiple factors, a strong and growing body of scientific evidence has shown that the use of neonicotinoid pesticides are a major contributing factor to bee decline.
The “Let It Bee” campaign calls for dramatic changes in commercial landscaping and domestic gardening to create safe habitat to protect the diversity of wild bees. It also calls on citizen scientists to help deliver census data for bumble bees through the first annual Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count.
Nature designed distinct roles for each wild bee species to play in pollinating plants and we need them all. But they’re up against big stresses like habitat loss, climate change, pesticides and diseases.
A key example is the Rusty-patched bumble bee, once abundant in southern Ontario and now almost extinct and officially designated as endangered. Six more bees have declined to such an extent that scientists have advised the federal Minister of Environment to take steps to protect them.
There are over 800 confirmed species of wild native bees in Canada with little proper monitoring. Few people can actually recognize wild bees even though there may be up to 50 species in a typical backyard.
What you can do:
- Watch “A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee” – a new documentary just released. If you agree that it’s a powerful motivator, then organize a viewing with your family, neighbours and friends.
- Sign the Petition to Protect Wild, Native Bees – Help us encourage the Federal Minister of Environment to protect endangered bumble bees.
- Send a Letter to Minister of Health Philpott – let her know we appreciate getting rid of conditional registrations but it’s only a first step.
- Send Our Letters to Garden Centres – ask them to stop selling plants and seeds treated with bee-killing pesticides.
- Find out which Retailers are Acting on Neonicotinoids – labelling their plants or phasing-out neonics altogether.
- Create your Bee & Bee – learn how to support our pollinators in your own backyard.
What are Neonicotinoids?
- Neonicotinoids (neonics) are systemic pesticides that are absorbed into plant tissues. Once applied, they spread through the entire plant, including the stems, flowers, pollen and nectar.
- Neonicotinoids can poison bees directly, and even low-level exposure can lead to sub-lethal effects such as altered learning, impaired foraging and immune suppression.
- Neonicotinoids are used on virtually 100% of corn seed, and on a large percentage of soy, wheat, and canola seed.
- Neonicotinoids are applied to crops using seed coatings, sprays, soil drenches and granules.
- Hard to believe, but new neonicotinoid pesticides have been approved since PMRA announced neonicotinoids were under review.
Help To Make The Single Most Effective Change For Bees
Unless Canada changes how new pesticides are approved we will constantly be fighting to have one pesticide or another taken off the market. Our system is broken. It is too close to the pesticide manufacturers and too far from up-to-date scientific methods.
It is hard to believe, but a number of new neonicotinoid pesticides have been approved since Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) announced neonicotinoids were under review. And it did so in the face of mounting scientific evidence and growing public concern.
The scientific approach must be updated by replacing “Risk Assessment” with “Systematic Review” and ending the practice of issuing conditional registrations. The first neonicotinoid pesticides were allowed on the market even though the PMRA recognized the threat to honey bees. They issued registrations on the condition that more studies would be done to understand the impact on bees. For over ten years PMRA ignored its own conditions while millions of bees died agonizing deaths. Unless we change the system, pesticide manufacturers will continue to sell neonics and the next generation of systemic pesticides. Here’s what we need to do.
We need a transparent and participatory process of systematic reviews. Under the present rules, PMRA only tells the public it is about to register a new pesticide after it has made the decision. You and I are welcome to submit comments, but we can see the scientific information only by traveling to Ottawa and reading it in the library. These decisions release poisons across Canada without any public environmental assessment.
Take the Pledge to Let It Bee. You can help Canada’s 40 species of bumble bees by creating bed & breakfast accommodation right in your backyard or even on your balcony. You’ll find they, in turn, will help you with better results in your garden.
“Let It Bee” is among the most ambitious public outreach campaigns in Friends of the Earth’s forty year history. Stage One of the campaign calls for dramatic changes in commercial landscaping and domestic gardening and lays out the top actions to take. Read the “Let It Bee” Campaign Media Release.
YOU CAN HELP IF YOU JUST LET IT BEE
Friends of the Earth ran its first annual Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count from June to August in collaboration with Bumble Bee Watch.
If you’ve planted your own Bee & Bee for bumble bees, you’ll want to stay tuned for new details on this citizen science campaign.
Friends of the Earth will be asking everyone to agree to write one letter or email in 2016 to support our campaign to change how pesticides are regulated.
Sign up for Friends of the Earth e-newsletter so you will know when to send your letter or email.