Learn about the importance of protecting bees and other pollinators, and the actions you can take to help.
On this page Skip this page navigation
We’re proposing changes that would reduce complexity and unnecessary burden associated with pesticide management in Ontario, while ensuring continued protection of human health and the environment. Learn more on the Environmental Registry.
Without pollinators, much of the food we eat and the natural habitats we enjoy would not exist.
With more than 700 native species in Canada, bees are the most common pollinator. Other pollinators include:
- some beetles and hummingbirds.
Pollinators transfer pollen in and between flowers while visiting a plant for food. This process is known as pollination.
Managed honey bees are valuable pollinators that play a crucial role in Ontario’s agricultural sector. External factors such as weather, disease and pests can all contribute to the health of managed honey bees. These are just some of the complex factors that need to be assessed over many years to better understand their impacts.
Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs works with beekeepers to maintain the viability of Ontario's managed honey bee sector. This includes:
- education and outreach
- inspection monitoring programs
- programs to cover loss and damage due to risks that are beyond Ontario beekeepers’ control.
Pollination is important because it helps create a diverse plant population.
Many crops rely on pollinators. These include:
- certain field crops
- and many other crops
Pollination makes plants which:
- create food and shelter for wildlife and people
- produce fuel and biomass
- moderate temperature and produce oxygen.
How you can help pollinators
You can help improve the health of Ontario’s pollinators by making your garden or outdoor space pollinator-friendly.
Follow these guidelines to create a pollinator-friendly garden:
- Choose native Ontario plants to attract native pollinators
- Make a bee bath for thirsty bees by filling a bowl with large rocks and shallow water
- Select plants that bloom at different times from spring to fall to ensure that pollinators have food and adequate shelter throughout the growing season
- Plant flowers in clusters – creating clusters makes it easier for pollinators to find the flowers and improves the efficiency of pollination
- Eliminate or reduce the use of pesticides including pollinator attractive plants treated with systemic pesticides.
- Build a bee hotel for solitary bees. A simple bee hotel can be made out of hollow reeds or bamboo and a milk carton
- Attract a range of pollinators by planting flowers of different shapes and sizes (see this guide for examples)
- Create a window box with pollinator-friendly herbs in your backyard or balcony
- Leave mulch-free space for ground-nesting bees
- Plant milkweed for monarch butterflies
Beekeepers produce honey, beeswax and other retail items. They also provide a service to farmers by providing honey bees to ensure there are enough bees to pollinate their crops.
In Ontario, 3,000 registered beekeepers operate 100,000 honey bee colonies. Ontario’s managed honey bees and bumble bees generate about $897 million of the roughly $6.7 billion in sales for agricultural crops grown in the province each year. This is equivalent to about 13% of the province’s total annual crop value.
Commercially raised bumble bees are the primary pollinator in greenhouses. The crops they help pollinate contribute approximately $502 million to Ontario’s economy each year.
In addition to managed bees, wild pollinators also make a significant contribution to Ontario’s agriculture and the environment.
The declining health and population of bees and wild pollinators is cause for global concern.
This decline in bees and overall pollinator health is likely due to a number of complex factors that fall under four areas:
- pollinator habitat and nutrition
- disease, pests and genetics
- exposure to pesticides
- climate change and weather
Bees are important pollinators that are essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems and a healthy environment. Our government is committed to ensuring pollinators are well protected while supporting our farmers and beekeepers to thrive.
In Ontario, we're working to support healthy, thriving populations of pollinators that in turn support a strong, successful agri-food sector and a healthy environment.
Neonicotinoids are a class of synthetic pesticides that are used for field crops, horticulture, nurseries and urban forestry to target insect pests.
Three types of neonicotinoids are used in Ontario:
Ontario relies on the federal government for the assessment of health and environmental impacts of pesticides before they are allowed for sale and use in Canada.
In order to use neonicotinoid-treated seeds farmers are required to complete pest risk assessments, take extensive training and purchase the seeds from a licensed vendor.
Farmers are also required to follow legally-binding product labels provided by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency to ensure the use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment.
The federal government developed a Best Management Practices guide to help promote pollinator protection and responsible use of treated seeds.
Based on the evaluation of recent scientific evidence, the federal government is also considering further restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect aquatic species, with anticipated decisions in 2020.
Ontario will re-evaluate its neonicotinoid requirements following the completion of Health Canada’s review of neonicotinoid pesticides.
Ontario is monitoring stream water for the presence of neonicotinoids to better understand the effects that neonicotinoid insecticides have on the environment.