Local beekeepers are again sounding the alarm about the damaging effects of certain types of insecticides.

Bees are dying by the millions and a new study from Harvard University backs up what the beekeepers have been saying for years. 

George Overton is a third generation bee keeper and together with his wife Sharon they have been keeping bees near Cookstown for more than 40 years. They normally produce 45 drums of honey each season but George is skeptical he will have any to sell this year because 16 million of his bees have died.

The 67 year old has never seen anything like this before.

“By the time it's over I have lost out the 425 hives I have about 84 left,” he says.

The Overtons blame on going exposure to neonicotinoids pesticides for the death of the colonies over the winter.

“The neo-nics cause damage,” says Sharon Overton. “They are just trying to figure out the exact route that they do the damage by, but at phenomenally low levels they damage bees, they are very sensitive to it.”

Neonicotinoids are extremely toxic to insects, up to 7,000 times more lethal than the controversial insecticide DDT – the chemicals are used on corn and soybean seeds to protect the crops as they grow. Neonicotinoids dissolve in water and persist in soils from year to year.

On top of what we already know about neonicotinoids, new research from the Harvard School of Public Health confirms what bee keepers have suspected for several years: that the slightest exposure to neonicotinoids will cause bee colonies to collapse and die.

The study found that sub-lethal doses neonicotinoids compromised the ability of bees to survive the winter. The study also ruled out parasites and disease as factors in the death of the colonies in the study.

Health Canada has already concluded that current agricultural practices regarding the use of neonicotinoids are “unsustainable”. Last year Health Canada issued new labelling requirements for treated seed and new handling instructions. Research is expected to continue for several more years before a decision will be made whether to ban the chemicals.

Richard Elzby is a bee keeper from the Meaford area who is calling on the federal government to take action.

“We are hoping that we can win this battle that is killing the bees in huge numbers,” he says.

A growing number of bee keepers input region say the only option they have left is to abandon their bee yards and move their bees well away from agricultural areas.