On January 22, 2016, Ontario released for consultation a draft Health Action Plan (Plan) to reduce losses of honeybees and other pollinators caused by several “stressors” stated in the Plan to include: (1) reduced habitat and poor nutrition; (2) diseases, pests, and genetics; (3) exposure to pesticides; and (4) extreme weather and climate change. This action plan is part of a broader strategy to protect pollinators, with Ontario’s aim, in part, to reach an 80 percent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 2017. Other actions taken by Ontario related to pollinators and the regulation of corn and soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoids are discussed in our blog item Canadian Province Finalizes Neonic Reduction Rule.
Comments can be submitted through the Environmental Registry until March 7, 2016.
The Plan “identifies potential actions that have been informed through an ongoing consultation process with key stakeholders and the broader public.” For each of the four stressors identified as a cause of the pollinator decline, the Plan summarizes what information Ontario has gathered, what potential actions it is considering, and what potential additional action areas exist. With regard to the exposure to pesticides, the Plan states the following regarding potential actions for Ontario to take and additional measures under consideration.
Potential Actions by the Province:
- Increase education and outreach activities to stakeholder groups on Best Management Practices (BMP) and integrated pest management to support the implementation of Ontario Regulation 63/09 under the Pesticides Act;
- Support integrated pest management training for growers;
- Enhance sector outreach to support beekeeper education around the use of appropriate pest treatments in-hive;
- Continue to work with industry to support agricultural production and land stewardship practices that reduce pollinator pesticides exposure;
- Explore opportunities to facilitate completion and launch of an e-tool to alert pesticide applicators of nearby beehives for the purpose of reducing bee exposures;
- Provide financial support for producers to acquire dust deflectors for planting equipment through the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative;
- Enhance provincial monitoring efforts to track changes in agricultural practices stemming from the implementation of Ontario Regulation 63/09; and
- Monitor neonicotinoid concentrations in the environment.
Potential Additional Action Areas:
- Profile and highlight BMPs for pesticide use in agriculture;
- Improve beekeeper education on the effectiveness of honey bee pest treatments; and
- Support research in selective breeding strategies for honey bees resistant to pests and diseases.
The Plan also discusses Ontario’s research and monitoring efforts, including its intent to align and leverage existing research programs and its consideration to launch a special “Call for Proposals” to “fund new pollinator health research projects to fill knowledge gaps for example, understanding how varroa infestations interact with other stressors, studying implications of climate change for Ontario’s pollinators and assessing the effectiveness of various land management practices.”
In addition to submitting comments on the Plan, Ontario also developed an online survey for input on what priorities should be the focus to improve pollinator health and what steps should be taken to improve pollinator health.