Beekeeper says pesticide killing millions of bees

An Elmwood area beekeeper says the Ontario government needs to act now to ban a pesticide that he claims has killed millions of his honeybees and millions of others in the province.

Farmer demands province place moritorium on neonicotinoid

Beekeeper Dave Schuit opens up an almost empty beehive in Elmwood, Ont. Beekeepers want the province to place a moritorium on a pesticide they say is killing millions of Ontario honeybees. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

An Elmwood area beekeeper says the Ontario government needs to act now to ban a pesticide that he claims has killed millions of his honeybees and millions of others in the province.

Dave Schuit, owner of Saugeen Country Honey Inc., said the province needs to declare a moratorium on the neonicotinoid pesticide while the government investigates its affects on the bee population. Schuit and the Ontario Beekeepers Association have also launched a petition to get the province to ban the pesticide at least for now.

"It's unbelievable. I thought the government would be standing up and taking a stand and saying let's put a hold on this chemical until we do more research," Schuit told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris on Wednesday.

Last month, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn said she was forming an expert panel that includes scientists, beekeepers and pesticide manufactures to provide advice on how to prevent bee mortalities and how to "mitigate the potential risk to honey bees exposed to neonicotinoid."

"The Ontario government recognizes the vitally important role that pollinators and beekeepers play in maintaining a healthy and productive agri-food sector," Gabrielle Gallant, a spokeswoman for the agriculture ministry, said in a statement to CBC.

They plan is to have recommendations by spring of 2014. But Schuit said that by then, it could be too late.

Thousands of dead bees lay scattered on the ground in Elmwood, Ont. (Mark Gollom/CBC News)

"It’s like this, if you would see 70 per cent of your cattle dead would you say let’s do more research and see if this really is a chemical that’s killing my cattle or would you say let’s put a hold on it," Schuit said.

For years. the Ontario honeybee population has substantially declined. Millions of bees have been dying and experts are scrambling to figure out the root causes. Some say neonicotinoids are responsible. Health Canada did find that the pesticide may have played a role in the death of bees last summer.

But pesticide manufacturers and some scientists have laid the blame on the Varroa mite infestation.

And some corn farmers say neonicotinoid pesticides are essential for protecting corn seeds and seedlings during their first month and are responsible for higher corn yields, meaning a ban would result in significant loses to the industry.

Schuit, who owns around 900 hives, said that he's lost half his crop and that his livelihood is at stake.

"We’re in free-fall. We’ve got beekeepers who have lost 70 per cent of their hives. We’ve got beekeepers who’ve lost 90 per cent of their hives."

"When it first happened in mass numbers, I was in denial first, thinking this is not true. But I had to face reality. When you see your own livestock dying in the millions you can't help but get emotional," he said.