Pollinators are organisms that help transfer pollen from one flowering plant to another. This fertilizes plants so that they can produce seeds and fruit.
With over 700 native species in Canada, bees are the most common pollinators. Other pollinators include butterflies, moths, wasps, flies, some types of beetles, hummingbirds and certain bats. Bees and other insect pollinators are critical to the production of many crops and play an essential ecological role. Crops that depend on the work of pollinators include tree and berry fruit, canola, alfalfa, squash, and melon.
Pollinator Health and Pesticides
Declines in honeybee and other pollinator populations have generated considerable scientific and public interest both in Canada and internationally. A number of factors are seen as potential contributors to these declines and no single factor has been identified as the cause. The available science suggests that multiple factors acting in combination may be at play, including loss of habitat and food sources, diseases, viruses and pests, and pesticide exposure.
It is also known that certain pesticides can pose an immediate, or "acute", threat to bees. In order to protect pollinators, the labels of pesticides that pose such risks specify detailed use directions to reduce potential exposure. These include restrictions on pesticide spraying on flowering crops or weeds where bees may be present. All precautions and directions on pesticide labels should be followed.
Health Canada Activities
As the federal authority for pesticide regulation, Health Canada is actively working with key stakeholders as well as provincial agriculture and environment ministries to ensure agricultural practices across the country protect pollinators. It is also collaborating with other pesticide regulators internationally to refine pesticide risk assessment methods and data requirements so that the potential effects on bees are better understood and risks can be mitigated.
Best Management Practices
The following best management practices include measures that can be taken by growers to protect bees and other insect pollinators including honeybees, from pesticide exposure.
- Protecting Pollinators during Pesticide Spraying - Best Management Practices
- Pollinator Protection and Responsible Use of Treated Seed - Best Management Practices
Other Risk Mitigation Documents
- Requirement when using Treated Corn / Soybean Seed
- Notice of Intent: Action to Protect Bees from Exposure to Neonicotinoid Pesticides
- Update on Actions to Protect Bees from Exposure to Neonicotinoid Pesticides, Notice of Intent, NOI2013-01
- Pollinator Protection: Reducing Risk from Treated Seed
- How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides, Oregon State Univeristy
- Pesticide Environmental Stewardship, Pollinator Protection section
- Managing Pesticide Risk to Insect Pollinators, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Health Canada's risk assessment framework for bees was developed in cooperation with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. The pollinator risk assessment framework and guidance in the links that follow this paragraph represents an advancement in how we assess the risks posed by pesticides to bees, and allows improved pollinator protection in our regulatory decisions and risk mitigation measures. Health Canada also cooperates internationally through the OECD to develop improvements to pollinator risk assessment and mitigation, including development of test guidelines and guidance documents.
- Pollinator Risk Assessment Guidance, USEPA
- Pollinator Risk Assessment Framework Agency White Paper, USEPA
- OECD Work Related to Bees/Pollinators, OECD
Health Canada Pollinator Reports
- Update on the Neonicotinoid Pesticides (January 2020)
- Re-evaluation Decision RVD2019-04, Thiamethoxam and Its Associated End-use Products: Pollinator Re-evaluation (April 2019)
- Re-evaluation Decision RVD2019-05 Clothianidin and Its Associated End-use Products: Pollinator Re-evaluation (April 2019)
- Re-evaluation Decision RVD2019-06 Imidacloprid and Its Associated End-use Products: Pollinator Re-evaluation (April 2019)
- Consultation on Imidacloprid and its Associated End-use Products: Pollinator Re-evaluation, PRVD2018-12 (May 2018)
- Update on Neonicotinoid Pesticides (December 2017)
- Consultations on the Neonicotinoid Pesticides – Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam: Proposed Pollinator Decisions
- Update on the Neonicotinoid Pesticides (June 2017)
- Update on Canadian Bee Incident Reports 2012-2016 (January 2017)
- Update on Neonicotinoid Pesticides (November 2016)
- Re-evaluation Note REV2016-03, Value Assessment of Corn and Soybean Seed Treatment Use of Clothianidin, Imidacloprid and Thiamethoxam
- Re-evaluation Note REV2016-04, Joint PMRA / USEPA Re-evaluation Update for the Pollinator Risk Assessment of the Neonicotinoid Insecticides
- Re-evaluation Note REV2016-05, Re-evaluation of Imidacloprid Preliminary Pollinator Assessment
- Update on Neonicotinoid Pesticides and Bee Health (November 2014)
- Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities in 2013 Related to Neonicotinoid Pesticides - Interim Report as of September 26, 2013
- Evaluation of Canadian Bee Mortalities that Coincided with Corn Planting in Spring 2012
- Ontario Bee Incidents 2012 - Update
- Re-evaluation Note REV2013-15, Re-evaluation Update for Neonicotinoid Insecticides
- REV2012-02: Re-evaluation of Neonicotinoid Insecticides
How to Report Suspected Pollinator Pesticide Poisonings
For bee poisonings related to pesticides, contact the appropriate federal or provincial authority:
- British Columbia (Ministry of Agriculture): 604-556-3129
- Alberta (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development): 780-415-2314
- Saskatchewan (Ministry of Agriculture): 306-953-2304
- Manitoba (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development): 204-945-4825/204-945-3861
- Ontario (Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs): 1-877-424-1300
- Québec (Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation): 1-844-ANIMAUX (1-844-264-6289)
- Nova Scotia (Department of Agriculture): 902-679-8998
- Prince Edward Island (Department of Agriculture and Forestry): 902-314-0816
- New Brunswick (Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries): 506-453-2108
- Newfoundland and Labrador (Department of Natural Resources): 709-637-2662
You can contact Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency at 1-800-267-6315.
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