Beekeeper John Van Blyderveen is troubled by the silence in his laneway in Ontario's Oxford County.
The familiar summertime buzz of bees hovering over the lush cherry blossom trees is noticeably absent. The flowers sit untouched.
"This is extremely unusual for this being a bee farm, there are no bees here," Blyderveen says. "This is really sad."
This increasingly familiar scene, which is playing out across North America and Europe, worries beekeepers, farmers and scientists who have been tracking the collapse of honeybee colonies over the past decade.
Saturday Nov. 16 a group of volunteers in Peel brought a strong message to local MP's in Brampton. We participated in a "Bike for the Climate" event, riding the Etobicoke Creek Trail from MP Parm Gill's office to MP Kyle Seeback's office. We carried signs with the message that we don't want dirty tar sands or leaky pipelines running through our communities. We invited both MPs to participate but they didn't respond to our invitation.
Ontario is bringing together a group of experts to provide advice on how to prevent bee mortalities.
The Bee Health Working Group will be comprised of beekeepers, farmers, agri-business representatives, scientists, and staff from both federal and provincial government agencies. Drawing on a broad range of expertise, the working group will provide recommendations on how to mitigate the potential risk to honey bees from exposure to neonicotinoid -- a pesticide used for corn and soybeans.
The working group will meet for the first time this month and provide its recommendations by spring 2014.
Supporting the province's agri-businesses while protecting the environment is part of the Ontario government's plan to create a fair and prosperous society.
Canada has no plans right now to follow the European Union's decision to ban a class of pesticides it believes is responsible for the deaths of many honey bees.
Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency said it already started a comprehensive review of three pesticides in the neonicotinoid class following last year's accidental poisonings of more than 200 apiaries in Ontario and Quebec by farmers applying the pesticides during plantings.
But it said that review is continuing and more investigation is needed to determine if the pesticides pose a significant environmental risk to domestic and wild pollinators. In the meantime, it has issued new rules to farmers on how to avoid killing bees with the pesticides.
In over a decade of work with businesses and grassroots environmental organizations like Sierra Club Ontario, I cannot recall such an obvious and non- contentious call to action as the one put forth by organizers of the MAYDAY Rally.
Let me clarify. Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP), the second largest sewage plant in Ontario, is already a nuisance to the nearby shorelines of Ajax and Pickering. The proposed expansion of the plant to accommodate new residents in York Region should have a commitment to invest in better technology. If the current deterioration of shorelines due to the 340,000,000 litre-per-day discharge is not enough of an alarm bell, surely an expansion of operations is a timely opportunity to invest in a more sustainable solution.