By Jon Radojkovic, Hanover Post
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 12:38:19 EDT PM
What do alfalfa, coffee, chocolate, apples and watermelons have in common? All that food needs to be pollinated to become…food. And if the main pollinators, bees, are suspected of being killed by pesticides, what can we do to keep some food supply available for them until the slow reaction, hard lobbied government, passes a moratorium to stop the spraying of pesticides?
A public meeting was called last week to gather people around the issue of the millions of bee deaths in this region and around the world, after corn and canola was sprayed with neonicotinoid insecticides, common brands known as Poncho 600 and Matador 120.
Doubled with the huge increase of insecticide use on GMO plants, another problem for pollinators, which includes honey bees, sweat bees, squash bees, leafcutter bees (which pollinate alfalfa) bumblebees, some moths, and many others, is the loss of habitat. Put on top of all that high prices for corn, soya and wheat, fields are getting larger, because farmers are clearing many of the fencerows that traditionally would provide food for pollinators. At the same time, more residential development in the rural areas has seen an increase and size of lawns. These lawns are like a desert to pollinators, while many of them are also sprayed with pesticides.
One innovative way to provide more habitat or food, for pollinators, so they can continue to pollinate plants so humans can have food, is to plant perennial plants along our highways.
“Why does Ontario look so dead along its highways,” asked Carol Duncan, from Barrie, who spoke to about 50 people gathered at NFUO member Gary Kenny’s drive shed, near Neustadt.
Duncan talked about how she asked permission from the highway department near Barrie, to plant pollinator food—black-eyed-susans, wild strawberry plants, elderberry, choke cherry and even goldenrod. She got this idea after travelling to parts of the USA where there was an abundance of flowers and shrubs along interstate highways. “These are not gardens,” she explained, “they don’t need to be weeded forever.”
Another idea Duncan mentioned for pollinator plants was planting along hydro corridors. “It’s okay to cut the trees, but don’t spray and wild plants will grow,” she said. Grey County and municipal roads are typically mowed once along the sides, to keep the grass down and this lets wild flowering plants a chance to re-grow again, which is good for pollinators. Duncan cautioned though, that mowing the sides of roads and ditches by homeowners many times over the summer months, keeps flowering plants from coming up again. “Don’t mow the ditches, please,” she said.
Erika Schuet also talked about the loss of almost 40 million bees so far on their honey operation, Saugeen Honey, located near Elmwood. “I would say you could call this a, “bee holocaust,” she announced. After a good winter season, where their hives looked healthy, as soon as corn was planted this spring, the seed mixed with neonicotinoid insecticide, their and many other honey producer’s bees, died by the millions. They have had their bees tested by the pest management regulatory agency, an arm of OMAFRA, but so far have not had conclusive results. “The samples they have are to prove what science already knows,” Schuet says. She believes that past colony collapse is a result of lower immune systems in bees from insecticides, which is accumulating and coming to a head now. The half life of neonicotinoids is 120 days and can stay in the soil and water for years after. She also asked the big question, since the dust from these insecticides is in the air, is it not everywhere, especially in our water, and what is it doing to us?
“We all know it’s really about how chemical use is about making money for large corporations and their lobbying power,” said Chris Palmer, an attendee.
The thrust of the meeting, besides information, was more about what everyone can do to get a moratorium on neonicotinoids, at least a couple of years like the European Union enacted recently, and to save and grow more pollinator plants and shrubs.
Carey asked people to write or phone their MP, Larry Miller, who chairs the federal agricultural committee, plant flowering plants and shrubs instead of mowing your lawn and ditches, and hold meetings about the issue. He is inviting people to his farm, every Monday evening, to see what can be done. You can reach him at 519-665-7305 or firstname.lastname@example.org