Our Endangered Neighbour

Rita Godon CSJ

My fascination with bees began at the early age of five when I started school.  In our small unfamiliar library, perched on a top shelf, was a grey massive empty hive.  I had to face the reality of this strange form whenever I reached up for a book.  I was reminded over and over again that the hive was indeed empty.  Over time I learned to respect bees.  I got to love them.  I was assured that they wouldn’t bite me unless I disturbed them.  I discovered bees were amazingly hard workers and creators of beauty.  En masse, they cooperate so well with each other in achieving their goal of making honey to my amazement.  In my later years I became aware that honey bees account for 80% of all insect pollinators. They play a vital role in our food chain. 

Bees have been very much in people’s minds, hearts and prayers these days because of their high rate of death over this past winter.  I cannot imagine life without bees for they have been with us for 10 million years.  The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists identified three causes:  starvation from lack of food caused by our past cold winter, parasites (mites), and primarily exposure to pesticides (neonicotinoids).

Neonicotinoids, a family of pesticides typically applied as a seed coating, help to protect plants from insects and in Ontario are used primarily in corn and soybean crops.  Believe it or not, they are used in greenhouses!  Neonicotinoids are banned by the Europe Union, but Canada is awaiting an interim report to come out next spring before considering a ban.  Meanwhile, extra precaution will be taken to prevent neonicotinoid dust getting into the soil or air during planting season by the introduction of a new seed lubricant.  As well, farmers and beekeepers will have access to an app that will notify each other when fields close to bee hives are about to be planted.

Sadly, beekeepers, farmers and seed-sellers are all impacted by the increasing annihilation of bees.  These three entities need to work with each other to achieve a fair but successful outcomes – one that would have bees as the first priority, not putting self- interest or the economy first.

To learn more about the challenges facing honey bees and what you can do to protect them, please visit www.panna.org  under Issues, – Pesticides 101 A Prime – Food & Agriculture – and scroll down to find the booklet Bee the Change.   In the CSJ spirit to live one with our neighbour, let us ‘bee friendly’.