Pollinator Health Action Plan
This page was published under a previous government and is available for archival and research purposes.
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Table of Contents
In January 2016, I requested your feedback on a draft action plan to support pollinator health. The response was excellent and, now that we have analyzed the submissions and considered your recommendations, I am pleased to release Ontario's Pollinator Health Action Plan.
As part of the province's broader Pollinator Health Strategy, this plan is designed to help improve the health of all insect pollinators which supports a strong agri-food sector and a healthy environment. The plan builds in actions, timelines and accountability as we move forward. It is designed to be adaptive and can be adjusted as new, evidence-based research becomes available.
A collaborative approach is at the core of our efforts to protect pollinators. Looking ahead, we continue to welcome and build new partnerships while maintaining current relationships.
As Ontario continues to take a leadership role in the protection of pollinators, I encourage us all to work together and achieve our goals.
Pollinators are vital to a healthy ecosystem and they play a crucial role in Ontario's agriculture sector. They provide one of our planet's most important ecosystem services - pollination. Over one third of our diet comes directly or indirectly from insect-pollinated plants, and about 80 per cent of wild, flowering plant species would not exist without pollination. Pollinators are essential to our agricultural sector: managed and wild pollinators contribute $992 million annually to Ontario's economy.
Despite the critical importance of pollinators to the economy and the environment, research around the world is showing disturbing declines in pollinator populations due to a number of interacting stressors including disease and pests, exposure to pesticides, reduced habitat and climate change. Ontario has not avoided these challenges: it is also experiencing decreases in pollinators and pollinator health.
Ontario's Pollinator Health Action Plan
The plan outlines several actions to address broad stressors impacting pollinators. Here are some examples:
For a full list of actions and timelines, please read on.
By developing partnerships and initiatives that strengthen pollinator health, we are working to achieve Ontario's vision to be home to healthy pollinator populations that contribute to a sustainable food supply and support resilient ecosystems and a strong economy.
Fact: Through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal/provincial funding program, farmers have accessed cost-share funding to enable farm families to increase their environmental awareness and identify areas of environmental concern and action of their farms by developing an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP). Once a farm plan is completed, GF2 supports EFP-identified actions including those that support pollinator habitat such as building wind breaks and planting cover crops.
Many species throughout the world, including a small number of birds and mammals, provide pollination services. In Ontario, the majority of pollinators are insects. Bees are the most specialized insect pollinator due to a variety of physical traits that allow them to collect and store pollen. Wild bees come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colours. They are diverse in their requirements such as habitat, nesting sites, the types of flowers they visit and their season of activity. In Ontario, the two most common groups of wild bees are solitary bees and social ground nesters. This Action Plan focuses on two main groups of insect pollinators:
Managed honey bees not only produce honey but also pollinate a broad range of Ontario crops including apples, apricots, asparagus, blueberries, squash and canola. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating 80 per cent of all agricultural crops requiring insect pollination and are the most economically valuable pollinators world-wide.
In 2016 there were more than 2,800 registered beekeepers in Ontario managing a total of over 97,000 honey bee colonies. Ontario beekeepers produced an estimated 8,880,000 pounds of honey, worth $27 million. Beekeepers also produce beeswax products for retail sale. Perhaps most importantly, horticulture producers require beekeepers' hives for pollination services to increase crop production and yields. Some Ontario honey bee colonies are also transported every year to help pollinate over $70 million worth of blueberry and cranberry crops in eastern Canada - and the demand for pollination services continues to increase.
Other species of managed pollinators in North America include bumble bees, alfalfa leafcutter bees and blue orchard bees. Bumble bees are increasingly used in Europe and here in Canada as the primary managed pollinator for greenhouse tomato and pepper production. Managed bumble bees are now being tested as potential pollinators for cranberries, blueberries and ginseng.
Previous studies show Ontario as a Canadian biodiversity hotspot for wild pollinators, having 420 of over 855 nationally-recorded bee species. This is the highest bee diversity of any province. Although the value of wild pollinators to agriculture in Ontario has not been assessed, recent studies elsewhere suggest that wild pollinators may be more important than originally thought.
Pollination plays a fundamental role in sustaining ecosystems and supports all organisms that depend on resources from flowering plants (e.g., seeds for birds, shelter provided by flowering trees and shrubs, etc.). While the managed honey bee is perhaps the most well-known pollinator, wild bees are more effective pollinators on a per-bee basis. Some species of wild pollinators carry greater quantities of pollen grains making them more efficient pollinators. Wild pollinators can forage in cooler conditions than honey bees, which allows for pollination of plants blooming in early spring and late fall.
Research has shown that improving honey bee pollinator efficiency in agriculture can be accomplished by encouraging or introducing wild bee species to an area. The presence of wild bees has been found to increase the pollinating efficiency of honey bees when compared to an orchard that was pollinated by honey bees alone.
Worldwide, there are signs that managed bees and wild pollinators are under stress and, in a number of cases, in decline. At the same time, the need for pollination services for many agricultural crops continues to grow. Ontario is no exception to these international trends: some Ontario-specific research indicates that the province is experiencing similar declines while also facing increasing demands for pollination services, particularly from managed bees.
The beekeeping industry considers a 15 per cent annual overwinter loss sustainable. Since 2007 overwintering losses in Ontario have ranged from a low of 12 per cent in 2012 to an all-time high of 58 per cent in 2014.
Although information on the populations of wild pollinators in Ontario is limited, studies show some species (e.g., the formerly widespread rusty patched bumble bee, now a Species at Risk) have declined dramatically. Declines in wild pollinator populations documented globally show that almost 50 per cent of insect extinctions involve flower-visiting species. International trends suggest that pollinator declines are a result of the interacting impacts of several stressors - including disease and pests, exposure to pesticides, reduced habitat and climate change.
Ontario farmers are incredible stewards of our land. Since 2005, they have demonstrated a strong commitment to the environment, completing more than 23,900 voluntary on-farm Environmental Farm Plan projects. This work represents a total investment of $366 million in on-farm improvements, including $99 million in federal-provincial cost-share funding, approximately $26 million leveraged from other cost-share programs, and with farmers contributing $228 million to these projects.
In addition to the efforts of the farming community, when polled as part of Pollinator Health Action Plan consultations, more than 60 per cent of survey respondents indicated that they would be willing to financially contribute to organizations supporting pollinator health and more than 70 per cent would be willing to lead habitat activities, both on the farm and across urban landscapes. These results show a huge willingness to work together, bridge gaps and collaborate from all sides of the issue on a topic as critical as pollinator health.
We challenge all parties, including environmental organizations, conservation groups, academia, industry and communities to join our farmers and be part of the solution by pooling resources. We invite organizations from across Ontario to invest in the coming years to promote environmental stewardship and pollinator health.
The organizations highlighted in this report are a wonderful example of this work and we encourage it to continue and grow!
In November 2014 the Ontario government launched the province's first Pollinator Health Strategy highlighting two aspirational targets:
In 2016 - communicated for the first time in this plan - a third aspirational target has been added:
There are three components to the strategy:
The first two components of the strategy - financial support for the beekeeping sector and Ontario Regulation 63/09 that reduces the use of neonicotinoid insecticide NNI-treated corn and soybean seeds - have been launched. The release of the third and final component of the strategy, the Pollinator Health Action Plan (the plan), completes the launch of all three components of the multi-faceted strategy.
A key element of the province's Pollinator Health Strategy is the commitment to establish a financial program to assist beekeepers experiencing high levels of honey bee hive loss. In 2014-15 the Beekeepers Financial Assistance Program (BFAP) was extended to cover bee mortalities. More than $5.4 million in BFAP payments were distributed over the 2014 and 2015 program years as part of a combined effort to build up healthy bee colonies in the province.
In September 2015 BFAP was replaced with a permanent Bee Mortality Production Insurance plan to cover overwinter losses caused by insured perils, such as excessive cold, ice damage and diseases/pests, with no means of adequate control. In its first year, 35 beekeepers with over 13,200 colonies participated in the plan.
On July 1, 2015 Ontario Regulation 63/09 under the Pesticides Act came into effect. This NNI-treated seed regulation will be fully phased-in over two growing seasons. The regulation created a new class of pesticides (Class 12) for corn and soybean seeds treated with NNI, and restricted its use to where there is demonstrated need due to the presence of pests.
The plan is the third component of the strategy. By building on existing partnerships and developing new partnerships and initiatives that strengthen pollinator health, we will achieve Ontario's vision to be home to healthy pollinator populations that contribute to a sustainable food supply and support resilient ecosystems and a strong economy.
This plan is the result of significant input from the public and many stakeholders interested in pollinator health.
In November 2014 the Ontario government released a comprehensive discussion paper on its pollinator health strategy including a regulatory proposal to reduce the use of NNI pesticides in Ontario. Actions proposed in the discussion paper Pollinator Health: A Proposal for Enhancing Pollinator Health and Reducing the Use of Neonicotinoid Pesticides in Ontario received tremendous support for enhancing the health of pollinators.
A variety of actions were brought forward which were expanded upon through interactive forums held in Guelph in August 2015 and February 2016 with experts and key stakeholders from across sectors. More than 50 leaders from across Ontario participated in each session to address issues that included:
Ontario's draft Pollinator Health Action Plan was posted on the Environmental Registry from January 22, 2016, to March 7, 2016, providing opportunity for public comment. This final, adaptive plan incorporates feedback received during the consultation process and continues to be a call to action for all Ontarians to play a role in enhancing pollinator health. And we know you're ready to participate! As part of plan consultations, respondents who took the online survey indicated:
We want to thank all of those who have contributed ideas and provided feedback that has helped shape Ontario's Pollinator Health Action Plan. Our vision is for Ontario to be home to healthy pollinator populations that contribute to a sustainable food supply and support resilient ecosystems and a strong economy. We thank you for reading this plan - your dedication will contribute to the improvement of pollinator health in Ontario.
An inter-ministerial steering committee will be responsible for overseeing the implementation, and reporting on the progress of the Pollinator Health Strategy. Recognizing that this plan is flexible and adaptive in nature, the government will also engage technical experts to assist in key areas as the implementation of the plan moves forward.
This plan clearly identifies the ministries and organizations accountable for each action with an associated timeline for completion. Identified ministries will be responsible for implementing their individual actions and reporting to the steering committee.
Up-to-date information on Ontario's pollinators, including the progress toward each of the targets, will be shared publicly through our online pollinator portal (www.ontario.ca/pollinators). Reporting on the progress made toward our overwinter mortality rates and NNI-treated corn and soybean seed reduction aspirational targets will be shared with the public annually. Progress around the habitat target will be shared as information becomes available. Monitoring data and analysis, and new research results, will also be assessed on an ongoing basis and reports shared as available.
Studies show that pollinators are under increasing stress. Several causes or stressors are thought to be responsible for their decline and can be grouped into four broad categories:
To make progress toward achieving our strategic outcomes and vision, Ontario is taking action to address each of the four stressors identified as impacting pollinator health, as well as building on research and monitoring, and education and awareness efforts.
The management of honey bee and bumble bee diseases and pests is critical to addressing colony losses and minimizing the spread of pests and pathogens.
How are diseases and pests affecting pollinators in Ontario?
Pests and diseases are considered two of the main risks to pollinators. Managed bees and wild pollinators suffer from a range of diseases and pest infestations. The best documented are those that affect honey bees. However, some viruses, fungi and parasites are also known to infect managed bumble bees and wild pollinator species. In addition to naturally occurring diseases and pathogens, in recent years there have been concerns about pathogens crossing over from managed bumble bee and honey bee populations to Ontario's wild pollinator populations.
According to research, a significant destructive factor influencing the loss of honey bee colonies over the winter in Ontario is the varroa mite. While there are treatments that help maintain low levels of varroa infestation, resistance in some varroa populations to particular types of treatment is common and widespread. Varroa continue to be a significant challenge for maintaining honey bee health. As such, mite control is an essential beekeeping practice for the survival of honey bee colonies. It is therefore important for us to understand the best ways to control varroa in honey bee colonies, and find new ways to treat for varroa, while causing minimal harm to the honey bees themselves.
Fact: Varroa mites are relatively large external parasites that feed on the body fluids of adult and developing honey bees. Among other things, varroa can transmit pathogens, particularly viruses (e.g., deformed wing virus). Varroa mites have spread from their original range in Asia to most parts of the world, including Ontario in the early 1990s. Although almost all honey bee colonies in North America are now infected with varroa, the main challenge is the ability of beekeepers to effectively control the severity of infestations.
There are other pests and diseases that pose health risks to managed bees, such as the following:
Researchers are now examining the importance of interactions not only between diseases and other environmental stressors (e.g., disease and nutrition or exposure to pesticides) but also within the stressors themselves (e.g., varroa infestations with other pathogens) that affect individual bee health and colony resilience.
How can beekeeper management practices and genetics strengthen pollinators in Ontario?
Through selective breeding, honey bees are bred for a variety of desired traits including docile behaviour, increased honey production and resistance to certain pests and diseases. By identifying different genetic traits, beekeepers may be able to identify traits of interest and selectively breed bees that are more resilient to pathogens. Researchers in Ontario have investigated the role of genetics in resistance to pests and disease with some positive results. Some honey bees, for example, have been found to be less susceptible to the tracheal mite. Selecting for any honey bee genetic trait may provide additional protection against pests and diseases, especially as some pests and pathogens can develop resistance to established methods of treatment.
Proper management of honey bee colonies is essential for their success and survival. Colonies must be properly managed to achieve adequate production and pest control. It is important for beekeepers to consider current recommendations when implementing best management practices (BMPs) within their operation, including following an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. The beekeeping sector is dynamic and techniques to combat pests will evolve as the science behind managing bees continues to advance.
What is being done to address diseases, pests and genetics in managed pollinators?
Under the province's Bees Act, OMAFRA's Apiary Program works with beekeepers to maintain the viability of Ontario's beekeeping sector, through the following actions:
Ontario has had beekeeping legislation for over a century. The current Bees Act, established in 1987, has not been significantly updated in nearly two decades. Since that time, the industry has evolved and there have been new pests and diseases that have emerged as challenges for apiarists in Ontario. There have also been changes in how industry and government approach animal health oversight, including a greater focus on information management, data analysis and biosecurity. Having timely access to accurate and up-to-date information about movement patterns, diseases and pests, and management practices can help promote a more coordinated response and greater cooperation between government and industry partners. Other animal production sectors in Ontario have already made significant strides in this area.
Working with key partners such as the Ontario Beekeepers' Association (OBA), the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA), the National Bee Health Roundtable and Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), the government will continue to build on this important work, concentrating efforts in the following areas:
Review Beekeeping Sector Legislation
The government will release for consultation a discussion paper to modernize the province's legislative framework on beekeeping. (OMAFRA; 2017)
En voici des exemples :Among other components, the modernization proposals could include provisions related to the following items:
Strengthen Beekeeper Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Diseases and Pests
Recognizing the critical role beekeepers play in managing diseases and pests and supporting overall healthy bees and hives, the Ontario government is partnering with the OBA to support increased education and training opportunities for beekeepers. Examples include:
Understanding Honey Bee Genetics
Honey bee genetics play a role in how resilient colonies are to pest infestations.
Modernizing beekeeper legislation, combined with increasing education and training opportunities for beekeeper BMPs and ensuring the resilience of our honey bee colonies, will help Ontario achieve a key goal of our Pollinator Health Strategy: Improved genetics and reduced impacts of diseases and pests on pollinators.
The mandate of the Ontario Beekeepers' Association (OBA) is to ensure a thriving and sustainable beekeeping industry in Ontario. OMAFRA has funded the OBA to support initiatives, including the delivery of specialized training and research on high-risk pests and diseases. During the past 20 years, OMAFRA has provided over 3 million dollars to the OBA to support industry activities and outreach efforts in support of increased pollinator health. Working together, the OBA and OMAFRA will continue to ensure strong beekeeper BMPs for Ontario.
The term pesticide refers to a broad category of products that are specifically designed to control a pest. A pesticide can control a fungus, a weed or an insect pest. The category of pesticide that typically poses the greatest potential risk for both wild pollinators and managed bees is insecticides. While insecticides are intended to control insect pests, they can also harm beneficial insects like bees.
How is pesticide exposure affecting pollinators in Ontario?
In Ontario the use of pesticides in agriculture has changed over the past few decades. There has been more emphasis on reducing the risks to human health and the environment and improving education efforts regarding the safe and proper use of pesticides. Additionally, there have been increased efforts to move toward reduced-risk pesticides that tend to be more targeted to specific pests and, therefore, not as broad-spectrum as the pesticides used in the past.
Fact: OMAFRA and MOECC offer IPM training for corn and soybean producers through the University of Guelph Ridgetown Campus. This training is required under the neonicotinoid (NNI)-treated seed regulation. The course covers topics such as IPM principles including corn and soybean pest identification, planting BMPs, the new regulatory requirements regarding Class 12 pesticides and pollinator protection from NNI exposure. As of OCTOBER 31, 2016 over 10,000 individuals have completed this training.
NNI pesticides, commonly used as a seed treatment, have been widely used in agriculture around the world, and in Ontario, since the mid-1990s. However, a growing body of scientific evidence shows that some NNIs are highly toxic to bees and other insect pollinators. Impacts that have been reported include reduced longevity of adult bees, impaired foraging and navigational abilities, impaired learning and memory performance, reduced tolerance to pathogens and reduced colony growth. Specifically, there are documented incidents in field conditions where honey bees have been impacted by the use of NNI-treated corn and soybean seeds. Research also suggests that negative impacts on bumble bees, some butterflies and aquatic invertebrates are also likely.
What has been the Ontario government's regulatory response to neonicotinoids?
In July 2015 Ontario became the first North American jurisdiction to legislate restrictions that apply to NNI-treated corn and soybean seeds, under the Pesticides Act. The NNI-treated seed regulation created a new class of pesticides for corn and soybean seeds treated with three NNIs (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin) and restricts the use of NNI-treated corn and soybean seed to those areas where there is a demonstrated need. The requirements are being phased in to allow growers time to adjust, with an aspirational target to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017, as outlined in Ontario's Pollinator Health Strategy.
Farmers have also taken an active role to support pollinator health by implementing the PMRA's protective measures for corn and soybean production. These include using dust-reducing seed flow lubricants, following new packaging standards and making changes to planting equipment by installing deflectors.
Fact: In 2009, the Ontario Government introduced a ban on the use of cosmetic pesticides for lawns, gardens, parks and schoolyards.
In addition to pesticides used to protect crops, pesticide exposure can occur when beekeepers apply products directly to their hives to control parasitic mites and fungal and bacterial infections. Research by the Ontario Beekeepers' Association's Technology Transfer Program, supported by the Government of Ontario, is currently underway to examine the effects of pest and pathogen treatments including natural products such as essential oils on honey bee health. Further research into beekeeping management systems, chemical controls and their effect on pollinators is an essential component of an integrated pest management framework.
What else is being done to reduce pollinator exposure to pesticides?
While progress in reducing pesticide use on agricultural lands continues, new efforts are needed to ensure an abundant and healthy pollinator population.
In the fall of 2013 OMAFRA launched a pollinator health-focused research call titled New Directions Bee Health and Related Best Management Practices in Field Crop Production. This call supported the need to gather additional information on pollinator health and explore BMPs to minimize potential risk factors facing managed honey bees. Funding priorities were developed in consultation with the Ontario Bee Health Working Group and key agricultural organizations. A total of five research proposals were awarded totaling close to $1 million in funding. These projects include examining the effects of neonicotinoids on bee health and how these risk factors could be managed through alternative pest management tools and BMPs. The results will help inform both the public and the government as we move forward. Project results will be shared as they become available through our online pollinator portal under the research tab.
The Ontario government is also supporting IPM and education for both farmers and beekeepers to reduce pollinator exposure to pesticides. We are also providing support and monitoring for the NNI-treated seed regulation.
Support Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Education for Farmers
Farmers have already made, and continue to make, significant contributions to support pollinator health. To support these efforts, the Ontario government will:
Fact: In response to a high number of bee mortality incidents in 2012 and 2013, in 2014 Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) announced measures to reduce pollinator exposure to dust generated during the planting of treated corn and soybean seed. Measures included:
The requirement to use a dust-reducing seed flow lubricant when planting NNI-treated corn and soybean seeds.
BMPs for protecting pollinators during pesticide spraying and an update on best practices for pollinator protection and responsible use of treated seed.
Enhanced warnings and directions on pesticide and seed package labels on how to protect bees.
Related to these PMRA measures, funding for Ontario producers was made available under the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Initiative (GLASI) to install dust deflectors on planting equipment.
Support Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Education for Beekeepers related to Pesticide Management in Hive
IPM protocols require beekeepers to use approved products to treat in-hive pests such as mites and bacterial diseases. If used improperly, these treatments can negatively impact honey bee health. Continued efforts to enhance and improve BMPs for beekeepers and IPM recommendations will ensure appropriate use of these products.
Further to this, monitoring activities will also look at NNI and other pesticide residues in the environment, stream health (including the diversity of health of aquatic macro invertebrates), crop system practices, municipal water quality, and corn and soybean pest pressures. For a description of these environmental monitoring activities, see the Research and Monitoring section.
Continuing our efforts toward a robust integrated pest management framework (through training and tools for beekeepers and farmers and support and monitoring of the NNI-treated seed regulation) will help Ontario achieve a key goal of our Pollinator Health Strategy: Reduced level of exposure of pollinators to pesticides.
Pollinator habitat in Ontario is any area that provides nectar and pollen resources, nesting/overwintering sites or larval host plants that support populations of pollinators. Pollinator habitat can occur in natural areas as well as in agricultural and built-up settings.
Why is pollinator habitat important?
Wild pollinators have co-evolved with Ontario's native plant communities and, therefore, it is important to conserve pollinators to maintain the health, diversity and function of these important ecological systems. Wild pollinators play an important role in ecosystem maintenance as most flowering plants require insect pollination. This, in turn, provides food and shelter for wildlife species, supports ecosystem services provided by these plant communities (e.g., carbon sequestration, soil stabilization and air purification) and provides us with recreational opportunities. Many of Ontario's Species at Risk depend upon pollinators directly for their reproduction and survival or to provide food plants and habitat. Ten insect pollinators have been listed as Species at Risk and actions are being taken by government to protect these species and their habitats.
Pollinators need habitat (food and nesting sites) to support our agricultural sector and ecological systems. Restoring and enhancing pollinator habitat can have positive impacts, whether enhancing urban gardens and parks, farm field margins and headlands, or land alongside roadways or power lines.
What is the state of pollinator habitat in Ontario?
Pollinator habitat is being threatened by degradation, fragmentation and direct loss. The majority of habitat impacts have occurred in southern Ontario where the loss of natural habitats has been greatest. Progressive and cumulative habitat changes can have significant effects.
What is being done to support pollinator habitat?
The Ontario government recognizes that there are a wide range of groups and organizations involved in restoring, enhancing and protecting pollinator habitat. Here are a few examples:
The Ontario government is working to ensure collaboration among these, and many other, efforts, to increase the quantity and quality of pollinator habitat on public and private lands in southern Ontario through restoration and enhancement. These efforts will support both wild and managed pollinators.
We have grouped our habitat actions into three overarching categories: Partnering for Stewardship; Leveraging Current Policies and Programs; and, Providing Grants and Incentives.
Partnering for Stewardship
Ninety-eight per cent of the land in southern Ontario, where pollinator habitat loss and degradation have been greatest, is privately owned. Pollinator habitat restoration will be supported through government leadership and key partnerships to help:
Work to help support pollinator habitat restoration and enhancement activities includes:
Fact: A great example of increasing pollinator habitat on Ministry of Transportation (MTO) land is the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway in Windsor. It includes more than 295 acres of green space, 183 of which are ecological landscapes that include Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savannah - prime habitats for pollinators. Beyond the corridor, in restoration areas associated with the Parkway an additional 150 acres of Tallgrass Prairie habitat is being restored. MTO is also partnering with the City of Windsor and the Essex Region Conservation Authority on a one time effort to restore approximately 150 acres of Tallgrass Prairie habitat within the Spring Garden Natural Area.
Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) is a community-developed, farmer delivered program that gives Canadians the opportunity to play an active role in building a healthier environment by providing support to farmers to enhance and maintain ecosystem services. ALUS partners with farmers to retain and restore natural areas. These rehabilitated areas have natural benefits such as creating habitat for fish and wildlife, species at risk and native pollinators. Active in Ontario since 2007, hundreds of Ontario farm families are involved in ALUS projects across the province, including pollinator patch planting and environmental stewardship tours.
We will review and incorporate pollinator guidance into Ontario government policies, guidelines and programs, as opportunities arise, including:
Providing Grants and Incentives
The Ontario government is leveraging a suite of funding programs across ministries to support pollinator habitat restoration, enhancement and creation projects. The government will continue efforts that:
Working across the government and with our partners and agencies to lead the establishment of improved habitat on a range of public and private lands, combined with efforts to restore and enhance pollinator habitat through current policies, programs and incentives, will help Ontario achieve a key goal of our Pollinator Health Strategy: Improved habitat and nutrition for pollinators.
The earth's climate is changing. Globally, there is evidence of increasing air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea levels. In Canada we are already seeing rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns and increases in certain types of hazardous weather such as heat waves. Recent studies have shown that wild pollinators are highly vulnerable to climate change.
How is climate change affecting pollinators?
Although the precise impacts of climate change are difficult to predict, they could contribute to pollinator declines by modifying the balance between bees and their environment, including increasing their exposure and vulnerability to diseases. There is already evidence in Ontario of climate change causing earlier spring thaws that result in many plants flowering earlier than normal. Consequently, pollinator species could undergo population declines if plants bloom at times when pollinators are dormant. Pollinators also require continuous availability of food resources, and shifts in key seasonal changes such as flowering time and emergence of insects, could lead to gaps in the succession of flowers, causing a lack of food for longer-lived pollinators or colonies.
The geographic ranges of pollinators may also shift as temperatures increase. Bees that thrive in tropical environments are predicted to expand their ranges, whereas bees that thrive in narrow-ranged temperate climates will likely experience range reductions and are at risk of population decline.
In addition to the gradual increase in temperature, climate change causes more frequent extreme weather events like storms, floods, heat waves and droughts. Extreme cold weather can have severe impacts on pollinators already stressed by climate change by causing high overwintering losses. Less mobile pollinators, such as small beetles and ground nesting bees, may be the most seriously impacted by events such as flooding. Extreme weather can kill individual insects, but can also negatively impact entire colonies or local populations (e.g., by interrupting foraging and mating).
Fact: Temperature extremes, combined with an inconsistent food supply, can put intense pressure on pollinators and may lead to disease and death. An example of extreme weather in Ontario was the record-breaking early spring thaw in 2012. This event, caused by much warmer than normal spring temperatures, significantly impacted Ontario ecosystems. There were reports of fruit trees that bloomed five weeks ahead of schedule which were then extensively damaged by a late April frost. The flash freeze wiped out about 80 per cent of Ontario's apple blossoms, resulting in less than half of the expected yields for tender fruit growers and also reduced the availability of other flowering plant species.
What is being done to support pollinators in our changing climate?
Ontario has demonstrated leadership and commitment to fighting climate change through releasing both a Climate Change Strategy (2015) and Climate Change Action Plan (2016) which will be implemented over the next five years. Work is also underway to renew Ontario's Climate Change Adaptation Plan (Climate Ready), which will further explore ways to promote pollinator health and food security, and support the agricultural sector as it adapts to climate impacts. Actions outlined in this document are further intended to support the resilience of pollinators so that they are better able to withstand the stresses of a changing climate.
Managing the Impact of Climate Change
The government of Ontario is taking action to manage the impact of climate change on pollinators, including:
Alignment with the province's climate change objectives, which will include reducing vulnerabilities to climate change and increasing climate resilience of our ecosystems, will support pollinator health and help Ontario achieve a key goal of our Pollinator Health Strategy: Increased resilience of pollinators to climate change and weather.
Honey bees: Climate change may alter the distribution and diversity of flower species. Unusually wet summers or uncharacteristic dry conditions could affect which floral types are found in a given area and the amount of pollen and nectar that they produce. Because honey bees depend on a variety of floral sources and sufficient pollen and nectar to remain healthy, these downstream effects of climate change could impact the type and quality of nutrition that honey bees receive. In addition, climate change may cause indirect stress for honey bees when it is compounded by other factors. For example, pests and pathogens may become a greater burden in the face of warming temperatures.
Wild bumble bees: A study from Ontario examining the impacts of climate change on pollinators found that wild bumble bee species with narrow climate tolerances are at greater risk of decline. This study also reported that species living close to their maximum climatic tolerances are more at risk of decline and, ultimately, extinction.
Natural resources and ecosystems: "A changing climate with changing patterns of warmer, wetter and drier conditions also affects the natural environment and threatens biodiversity. For example, climate change could have negative impacts on the lifecycle of both wild and managed pollinator species like bees and butterflies, upon which about 80 per cent of all flowering plants depend. By conserving nature, restoring ecosystems and adapting natural resource management, we reduce vulnerability and increase resilience to impacts." - Ontario's Climate Change Strategy
Research and monitoring will be used
to track progress toward pollinator health goals and targets.
How will research and monitoring contribute to the success of the plan?
While we have a great deal of knowledge about honey bees, there is still much to learn about all pollinators. Addressing knowledge gaps, along with the government's environmental monitoring efforts, will contribute to an improved understanding of pollinator populations and their health status across Ontario.
The government recognizes the importance of monitoring both wild and managed pollinators to:
The plan highlights the monitoring programs that have been established to obtain baseline data on the status of managed honey bees, wild pollinators and pesticide residues in the environment. Data collected from these monitoring programs will provide, over time, an understanding of honey bee health and will measure progress against the plan's many actions and the overall Pollinator Health Strategy.
In addition to monitoring, the government will set priorities for pollinator health research and align and leverage existing and new research programs to address key knowledge gaps related to pollinator health. Awareness of key research and monitoring needs can also be used to encourage research collaboration and inform research undertaken by others.
An inter-ministerial committee will coordinate the analysis of our monitoring results and evidence-based research to adapt this plan, as required. Together, we will achieve our vision of making Ontario home to healthy pollinator populations that contribute to a sustainable food supply and support resilient ecosystems and a strong economy.
What is being done to support research and monitoring on pollinator health?
The Ontario government has already invested in a significant number of research projects and monitoring activities that formed the foundation of this plan. The actions below demonstrate our continued investment in evidence-based knowledge to inform pollinator health initiatives.
Fact: In 2015, researchers at the University of Guelph (U of G) undertook a comprehensive literature review titled Status and Trends of Pollinator Health in Ontario (funded through the OMAFRA/U of G partnership). This review identified 18,700 unique articles of which approximately 1500 were found to be relevant to Ontario. This review was important in the development of this plan and will help assess priorities and allocate future research funds.
Fact: We are excited to be launching a second, pollinator health-focused research call. The first call - New Directions Bee Health and Related Best Management Practices in Field Crop Production - was launched in the fall of 2013. The priorities were developed in consultation with the Ontario Bee Health Working Group. A total of five pesticide-focused research proposals were awarded close to $1 million in funding, with projects looking at:
Projects are ongoing and their results will inform our adaptive management approach to the actions we take to improve pollinator health.
In 2015, the government kicked off the Bee Health Expert Network - a honey bee specific group that includes experts from the beekeeping industry. Efforts are directed specifically at disease surveillance. This group is part of the larger Ontario Animal Health Network (OAHN), a network that contributes to long-term outcomes for animal health and welfare.
Habitat monitoring will begin with the assessment of land cover data to identify which lands in Ontario are currently or potentially suitable for pollinator habitat. This will be the initial step in addressing the recognized gap in monitoring programs for wild pollinators.
Wild Pollinator and Honey Bee Monitoring
Wild pollinator monitoring allows us to understand species diversity and track pollinator populations over time.
Honey bee monitoring includes tracking beekeeper BMPs and the prevalence of pests, diseases and colony losses to assess the health status of the honey bee population.
Farms at Work is partnering with the University of Guelph to monitor native pollinators on farms in central Ontario. This project is a first for the province and will allow researchers and the farming community to work together to gather information about native pollinators and their importance on farms. In addition to this project, Farms at Work also installs on-farm plantings for pollinators, pollinator tours and training of new beekeepers.
The University of Guelph's Animal Health Laboratory has developed laboratory testing for honey bee pathogens and pests. This lab testing supports the Ministry's Apiary Program to enhance honey bee health monitoring.
Environmental monitoring includes assessing NNI and other pesticide residues in the environment, stream health (including the diversity of health of aquatic macro invertebrates), crop system practices, municipal water quality and corn and soybean pest pressures. The government will:
Please refer to the Exposure to Pesticides stressor for monitoring activities specific to information arising from the NNI-treated seed regulation.
The data collected from our monitoring programs will establish baseline data on the status of managed honey bees, wild pollinators and pesticide residues in the environment. This data will help track and measure plan progress. Setting research priorities and aligning and leveraging existing and new research programs will address key knowledge gaps related to pollinator health. Together, monitoring and research will help Ontario achieve a key goal of our Pollinator Health Strategy: Improved understanding and evidence related to pollinator populations and their health.
Through education and awareness programs we have an opportunity to engage Ontarians of all ages in our efforts to help pollinators. From individuals to schools, community groups and businesses - everyone can make a difference. Together, we can help provide pollinators with the resources they need to survive and thrive
How is the Ontario government promoting education and awareness of pollinators?
Various actions throughout the plan have an education and awareness component. For example:
In addition, the Ontario government will further engage Ontarians through the actions below to help provide pollinators with the resources they need to survive and thrive:
The Ontario government also recognizes that there is a need to educate and inspire students about how to take action to protect pollinators. We are exploring opportunities to incorporate pollinator health considerations into student curricula across the province. Several connections have already been made including with Niagara College, EcoSchools and Earth Rangers.
The Ontario government supported Pollinator Partnership Canada's development of new guidance materials for restoring, maintaining and enhancing pollinator habitat on a variety of landscapes across Ontario. These technical guidance documents identify opportunities to consider pollinators on agricultural lands, along roadsides and utility corridors, and at solar and wind farms. These documents will be an important resource for large-scale landowners and managers.
OMAFRA and Master Gardeners of Ontario: OMAFRA's pollinator exhibit at the 2016 Green Living Show featured a pollinator-friendly garden. OMAFRA partnered with the Master Gardeners of Ontario to provide volunteer Master Gardeners on-site throughout the three-day show. The Master Gardeners added tremendous value in educating visitors on gardening and pollinators, as well as answering visitors' questions.
To strengthen the management skills of Ontario's beekeeping sector, the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus of Niagara College will be offering a Commercial Beekeeping Program starting in January 2017. This three semester academic program will coincide with the normal annual lifecycle of a honey bee - from winter slumber, to honey extraction, to putting the honey bees back in their hives for overwintering.
Toronto, Canada's first Bee City, leads the way in promoting pollinator health in Ontario. Its efforts include:
The Ontario Horticultural Association (OHA) is a volunteer, charitable organization that provides leadership in promoting all areas of horticulture and related environmental issues in Ontario. Through an expanding network of 276 horticultural societies, the OHA supports community beautification projects that create pollinator-friendly habitat throughout the province. Projects include beautifying local parks, planting boxes in downtown areas, and creating and maintaining public gardens, often planted with pesticide-free native plants and nesting sites, around government buildings, hospitals, health and hospice centres. The OHA also develops conservation, youth and horticulture programs.
What are other organizations doing to increase pollinator health?
Several organizations are making important investments to support pollinator health throughout Ontario. Examples include:
Other organizations are also supporting pollinators. To acknowledge their support, the Ontario government has summarized the activities of many such organizations in the chart that follows. We hope to expand this list in the future as we become aware of even more efforts happening to improve pollinator health. If you are an organization contributing to the health of Ontario pollinators and are not listed here, please contact us in order for your efforts to be acknowledged on our website.
Collectively raising awareness of how simple actions - such as planting pollinator-friendly habitats - can improve pollinator health, Ontarians will achieve a key goal of the Pollinator Health Strategy: Increased awareness and knowledge about pollinators and ways to support them.
The province assumes no responsibility for independent stakeholder activity and this list is not a formal endorsement.
- "Ys" show their areas of expertise (AODA compliant).
Collectively raising awareness of how simple actions - such as planting pollinator-friendly habitats - can improve pollinator health, Ontarians will achieve a key goal of the Pollinator Health Strategy: Increased awareness and knowledge about pollinators and ways to support them.
Pollinators are vital to a healthy ecosystem and they play a crucial role in Ontario's agriculture sector. By working together as partners and contributors, we can take actions that will support Ontario's pollinator populations and the ecosystem services they provide.
We have already begun work on several parts of the plan. We will be keeping our partners and the public informed on the progress of the plan, including reporting on our aspirational targets.
The plan identifies many opportunities for engaging Ontarians of all ages in our efforts to help pollinators. From individuals to schools, community groups and businesses - everyone has an important role to play. By working together we can collectively take steps to reverse pollinator losses and improve pollinator health across Ontario. Pollinators belong to all of us and we are all accountable for their protection.
We want to hear about what your organization does to help pollinators. Let us know by emailing: email@example.com.
Ontario's provincial government is working collaboratively toward improving pollinator health. Each of the following ministries is playing an active role in contributing to the goals and action item outcomes of the Pollinator Health Action Plan:
Below are a few key pollinator definitions to refer to as you read the plan:
Best Management Practices (BMPs): BMP means a practice, or combination of practices, that is determined to be the most effective and efficient means of managing a possible issue or concern.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM): IPM is a long-term approach to pests that considers all management options to maintain pests below an economic injury level.
Managed Bees: Managed bees are those that have some of their needs looked after by humans. In Ontario agriculture, the most common managed bee is the honey bee, which pollinates a wide variety of horticultural crops and some field crops such as soybeans. One species of bumble bee is used extensively for pollination in the greenhouse vegetable sector. To a lesser extent, the alfalfa leafcutter bee and the blue orchard bee are managed to provide pollination services for alfalfa and tree fruits respectively.
Wild Pollinators: Wild pollinators exist naturally within the environment. In Ontario there are more than one thousand species of insects that pollinate flowering plants. Wild bees in particular are well-suited to pollinate a wide variety of plants. Over 400 species of wild bees have been identified in Ontario alone. To a lesser extent, other insects such as wasps, butterflies, moths, some flies and beetles, as well as one species of hummingbird, are known to pollinate in the province.
Pollinator Habitat: Pollinator habitat in Ontario is any area that provides nectar and pollen resources, nesting/overwintering sites or larval host plants that support populations of pollinators. Pollinator habitat can occur in natural areas as well as in agricultural and built-up settings.
Habitat Degradation: Land-use changes alter the availability and quality of pollinator food sources, such as flowers providing nectar and pollen, the availability of nesting sites, or the availability of host plants (for butterflies and moths).
Habitat Fragmentation: Habitat fragmentation occurs when habitat loss results in the division of large, continuous habitats into smaller, more isolated remnants. These remnants are surrounded by regions unsuitable for pollinators. Isolated, fragmented habitats lead to loss of genetic diversity and pollinator population declines or losses.
Habitat Loss: The destruction of habitats so they can no longer support the species present. In southern Ontario, the availability of pollinator food sources and nesting sites has been reduced through the conversion of habitat to intensive farmland and urban/industrial use, affecting both wild pollinators and honey bees.
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