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This article was published 16/8/2018 (1003 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The federal government will start phasing out the use of nicotine-based pesticides in 2021, part of an effort to stem the mysterious decline of honey bee colonies around the world.
Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are a class of pesticides used by farmers and hobby gardeners to manage pests such as aphids and spider mites. Scientists blame the chemicals for weakening bees, making them more susceptible to disease and bad weather.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Canada announced a three-year phaseout of two of the three main neonicotinoids approved for use in the country Wednesday. When the ban comes into full effect, the pesticides can’t be sprayed or used to pretreat seeds before planting.
The announcement marks the completion of nearly six years of work by the agency, and follows a similar ban by the European Union slated to start at the end of the year.
"We rely on pollinators more than we rely on pesticides. If one must stay, the other will go. So we have to pick one," Charlotte Dawe, a conservation and policy campaigner for the Wilderness Committee, told the Free Press Wednesday.
Dawe said the committee was originally ecstatic to hear about the neonicotinoids ban since they’d been lobbying for it since 2013. However, upon closer look, she said the ban is too little, too late.
Bees face serious threats of disease and climate change; waiting another three years could be detrimental, Dawe said.
Bees are hit by neonics when they fly through dust clouds left behind by the pesticides or consume nectar from treated plants. Noting neonicotinoids linger around in the air and soil for years after they are used, she said it’s urgent the ban come into effect immediately.
Bee colony collapses began occurring in substantial numbers about 15 years ago and studies linked those deaths to mites and neonics.
A task force at the International Union for Conservation of Nature last year updated a comprehensive review of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed research studies on neonicotinoids and concluded there was no doubt they harm bees.
Following the announcement of the future ban, other bee experts and environmentalists in Manitoba told the Free Press the ban is welcome news that shows the federal government is taking the decline of bees seriously, while also considering the ramifications for farmers who rely on neonics.
Chris Kirouac, co-owner of Beeproject Apiaries in Winnipeg, called the ban "a bold move" despite the timeline.
"It would be great if we just turned it off tomorrow, but that wouldn’t be reasonable," he said, adding that farmers need to be consulted and given time to look into alternative products.
The pesticides that will replace neonics should also be taken into consideration before championing this news, bee expert Jason Gibbs said. The University of Manitoba entomology instructor said farmers would be unfairly penalized if the ban came into effect right away.
"We don’t want to take a knee-jerk reaction and get rid of one type of insecticide and replace it with something that’s even more toxic," he said, adding he thinks the time frame is fair.
Neonics are only one threat to bee populations across the country, Gibbs added.
Land-use changes, including urbanization, are another huge factor the expert said needs to be taken into account when it comes to saving the bees.
— The Canadian Press with files from Maggie Macintosh