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With dying colonies threatening food production, B.C.’s keepers are among those working to halt the slide and find solutions

For nearly a decade, honeybee colonies around the world have declined significantly, threatening to trigger a chain reaction that could affect food production systems. In the U.S., beekeepers lost nearly a third of their colonies this past winter alone. At Ron Lin’s farm, Honeyland Canada in Pitt Meadows, B.C., investors have hired a certified inspector from the provincial Ministry of Agriculture to evaluate the bee population at the farm, which includes 1,200 hives.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

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Dr. Lin, centre, also known as Dr. Bee, teaches a workshop on basic beekeeping at Honeyland in Pitt Meadows. Bees at his farm help pollinate some of the largest cranberry and blueberry farms in Canada.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

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Scott Gordon, an inspector for the ministry of Agriculture, inspects sample bees that will be tested for bacterial infections. Some bee deaths have been linked to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in corn-seed treatment. Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), for instance, studied the “unusually high number” of bee deaths across Southern Ontario during the spring of 2012 and found the pesticide residue was detected in about 70 per cent of dead bee samples analyzed.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

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“The information evaluated to date suggests that insecticides used on treated corn seeds contributed to many of the 2012 spring bee losses,” the agency said in April. The same month, the European Union announced it would ban the use of the pesticides for two years.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

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Health Canada’s PMRA has implemented mitigation measures to reduce exposure to dust generated during the planting of neonicotinoid-treated corn seeds. Mitigation measures include increased communication among growers, seeders and beekeepers and refraining from planting treated seeds in particularly windy or dry conditions.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

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The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association applauded the EU ban and called for the Ontario government to follow suit until there is a better understanding of how to manage the risks posed by the pesticides to honeybees and other pollinators.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

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