Bees are pretty important.
In fact, they’re responsible for pollinating about a third of the food we eat. Bees are also in a lot of trouble. The nicotine-based pesticides used by farmers are having a huge impact on bee populations across the planet. The declining bee population could have a devastating effect on the crops and foods that we, as humans, depend on.
In an effort to slow the negative effects, the Canadian government has announced that it will ban the use of neonicotinoids starting in 2021. This will hopefully slow the world’s honey bee decline.
There are currently three major pesticides used in Canada, and the ban will effectively phase out two of those three products over the next three years. The third product is on the chopping block, as well, though the timeline may be a bit different.
The nicotine-based pesticides are used because they do a remarkable job of killing off plant-killing pests like aphids and other mites. Unfortunately, they also do a remarkable job of reducing a bee’s ability to fend off disease and harsh weather.
Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency is in charge of the phase-out project. They’ve been working on the plan for the last six years. While it’s a pretty groundbreaking decision, it’s not the first of its kind. The European Union has announced a similar band which will launch at the end of this year.
Many environmental groups fear that the timeline for the phase-out is too long. Furthermore, the big question on many groups’ collective minds is whether or not the United States will follow suit. Many are doubtful. In the latest of a long line of questionable acts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has actually lifted a ban that prevented the use of a neonic inside of wildlife refuges.
The bees are exposed to the harmful chemicals when they’re directly sprayed or after they consume nectar from plants that have already been sprayed. The result is devastating. Last year, Canadian officials said that nearly half of the bees in Ontario alone died during the winter months, unable to handle the cold temperatures.
The loss is costly for beekeepers and consumers alike, as crop numbers will no doubt be affected by the declining bee population. We can only hope that other governments follow in Canada’s footsteps and that it’s not too late to bring the numbers back up.