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Northern Ont. beekeeper advising others to have colonies tested for chemicals


A northern Ontario beekeeper is sounding the alarm after discovering most of her bees had died earlier this year.

A northern Ontario beekeeper is sounding the alarm after discovering most of her bees had died earlier this year. Janice Mitchell discovered she had lost thousands of bees across 15 colonies in February 2024. Mitchell shows some of the losses in April 2024. (Ian Campbell/CTV News Northern Ontario)

Janice Mitchell is a veterinarian by trade and so she decided to send some of the deceased bees away for testing.

The beekeeper was surprised to learn most of those tested had high levels of glyphosate, a toxic herbicide found in products like RoundUp.

CTV News staff walked toured Mitchell’s backyard in Tehkummah Township on Manitoulin Island earlier this month.

She said the constant soothing hum she would hear in her ears when outside has gone silent these days.

"It was in February when I discovered the majority of my bees at the farm property that we're at here had succumbed and that's what I needed to find out," said Mitchell.

Thousands of bees across 15 colonies had died and she immediately got to work to find answers.

Surprising results

According to the lab where Mitchell sent her bees – including the queen – the specimens contained 0.57ppm of glyphosate.

Health Canada guidelines say the maximum acceptable concentration for a human in a glass of drinking water is 0.28ppm and these bees contained twice that level.

A graphic to explain the conversion of Health Canada's maximum acceptable concentration of glyphosate into parts per million (ppm) to compare with the concentrations Janice Mitchell say the lab told her was found in her dead bees. (CTV News Northern Ontario)

Mitchell said the result came as a surprise.

"It wasn't the fact that... I'm not going to get any honey, it's the fact that what's the bigger implication,” she said.

“I am studying these bees but what about the natural – the wild pollinators, the wild bees, what about the water runoff in our Blue Jay Creek, the Manitou, all our water sources, what about the birds that eat these bugs … It's just it's the bottom. I think it's the canary in the coal mine."

Mitchell has forwarded her findings to other researchers including the Ontario Beekeepers' Association.

The environment needs healthy bees

In this May 21, 2008 file photo, honey bees sit on a honeycomb. (Heribert Proepper/AP Photo)

Officials with the Beekeepers' Association said ensuring healthy bee environments is part of their strategic plan.

"Our goal is to ensure that we have healthy bees, healthy bee environments and a prosperous beekeeping industry and businesses in the province,” said Ian Grant, the association’s president.

“So we're always concerned anytime any beekeeper loses a hive.”

Grant said he could not comment on Mitchel’s situation at this time because he has not yet seen the test results.

Changes to the area’s environment may be a factor

Mitchell said more for-profit farming operations have gone up recently around her property replacing what was previously pasture land.

"I have this farm here with flowering bushes and shrubs and I need them for pollination,” she said.

Mitchell added she hopes one day she will be able to rebuild but for the time being she is still processing her loss.

“I have to do some thinking definitely but, I haven't given up yet," she said.

In the meantime, Mitchell is encouraging other beekeepers to consider testing their colonies for chemicals such as glyphosate.

Veterinarian and beekeeper Janice Mitchell told CTV News in April 2024 that she hopes to one day rebuild her bee colonies after discovering she has lost thousand of bees in back February 2024. (Ian Campbell/CTV News Northern Ontario) Top Stories

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