Connecting people with nature in Ontario's Mississippi Valley

Ordinarily Extraordinary

NOTE: The following article by MVFN Program Chair Gretta Bradley reflects on a 2015 MVFN presentation by Almonte native Dr. James Coupland. His presentation “Pesticides and Pollinators: What’s Happening Down in the Pasture?”  highlighted the importance of a healthy, biologically diverse landscape and the wild pollinators on which this depends.

By Gretta Bradley

The B-ee is iconic. As if spilling from a Chiclet box, the alphabet sprawled across the top of the blackboard gave us our first insights, as children, into this important pollinator. The letter “B” was represented by that smiling yellow and black bug with impossibly small wings. “Worker bee”, “busy as a bee”, and “honey bee” were already part of our growing understanding of this cheery, sweet, industrious insect. Needless to say, it was a bit of a shock when we came into contact with the pointy end. But we would eventually learn that in its flight from plant to plant it was, in fact, enabling plants to reproduce.

Now, modern agricultural practices such as pesticide use, habitat loss and climate change have come crashing headlong into this fundamental biological process, posing a serious threat to biodiversity.

Dr. James Coupland, co-founder of FarmForest Research and an authority on Integrated Pest Management (including the use of biological control systems) began his MVFN presentation “Pesticides and Pollinators: What’s Happening Down in the Pasture?” by asking us to think differently about seemingly ordinary places like meadows and pastures, with their meandering streams and low bogs. Explaining the concept of ‘Ecosystem Service’, Coupland helped us to look at the issues around our embattled pollinators and the role they play through a new lens.

The ‘Ecosystem Service’ approach looks in detail at nature’s products (e.g. food crops) and processes (e.g. tree roots draw water into the soil, filtering harmful bacteria, replenishing the water table and municipal water supplies) and determines their worth to our economy. We have traditionally resisted putting a number on our biodiverse natural spaces. Placing a monetary value on an ecosystem and the services it provides challenges the idea that they are “free”. However, as we have depleted these resources and disrupted the processes that support our quality of life and that of the natural world, putting a number on their value helps us to understand, in a very concrete way, that these things have not been without cost. Assigning a value allows ecosystem services to be accounted for, and damaging or destroying them clearly has a negative impact on the bottom line. Assigning value allows governments to make policy decisions based on measurable outcomes that allow for accountability. Wetlands offer a dramatic example. It is estimated that they are worth $2.64 trillion U.S. or $14,785 per hectare per year to the global economy.

Having established a frame of reference, Dr. Coupland turned to the role and value of a diversity of pollinators. Although the Rufous and Ruby-Throated hummingbirds, the Silvery Blue, Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, and Monarch butterflies, Hummingbird Clearwing moth, Paper wasp, the Hoverfly and Checkered Beetle are all pollinators, it is the 4,000 species of bees in North America, and 20,000 species of bee worldwide that are considered to be ecological keystone species for pollination. These species are at the very centre of a viable, functioning ecosystem. Lose them and we risk the collapse of those systems. And scientists are now really worried about collapsing wild bee populations. Our food supply (fruits, vegetables and other crops) as well as that of many birds and most other mammals will be severely impacted. Dr. Coupland used the environmental service model, to reinforce the scope of the challenges ahead. Pollination has been valued at $195 billion for global agriculture. Pollinators are now in decline-both in numbers and diversity, and bee-dependent plants are also declining. The cost of pollinator decline will be high and we ignore the problem at our (and those species with whom we share the planet) peril.

Carefully avoiding an overly simplistic explanation of a complex problem, Dr. Coupland discussed the possible culprits for our pollinator crisis. He warned against seeing the problem as having a single source. The research that promises the greatest potential to produce solutions looks at impacts caused by interaction of a variety of factors characteristic of a species under stress. Neonicotinoids (and other pesticides), fungicides, parasites, pathogens, and reduced plant diversity (some pollinators feed on only one type of plant) are all at work in ways that are not yet fully understood. More research needs to be done. That does not mean that efforts are not underway or that steps have not been taken. Neonicotinoid pesticides have been banned in the EU for 2 years and some will probably be removed for sale in Canada in the next few years, and companies are moving to ‘biosafe’ products. As individuals, we can plant pollinator friendly gardens/lawns, support efforts by organizations to protect and set aside wild spaces, and educate others and ourselves as to the importance of preserving our wild bee populations and their habitat.

If you are looking for additional information, ask your local librarian for “Status of Pollinators in North America”, published by the National Research Council of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Several printed copies are also available from the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists on loan, and a pdf of the publication can be found on MVFN’s website (just search for key word pollinator).

“Wild bees are our best pollinators. Without them, there would be few flowering plants to produce food, to provide habitat and to make the world beautiful.” ~ Dr. James Coupland

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View from the pasture – pesticides and pollinators

Submitted by Cheryl Morris for Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

On Thursday, October 15, 2015, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) will host the second presentation of their 2015-16 natural history series: “Naturally Special Places”. This event will be held in the Social Hall of Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte Ontario at 7:30 pm.

Guest speaker for the evening will be Dr. James Coupland, Director of FarmForest Research, a research and development company based out of Almonte that serves the agricultural community across Canada, North America, and around the world, including research work in developing countries with very challenging climates. The presentation is entitled “What’s Happening Down In the Pasture? Pesticides and Pollinators”. Dr. Coupland graduated from Almonte District High School before studying at Queens University. He completed his PhD in Zoology at University of Aberdeen in Scotland. Coupland worked for 10 years as an invasive species biologist with the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) based in southern France. FarmForest Research was established by Dr. Coupland in 1991 in Montpellier, France, and combines a broad technical and practical understanding of agriculture, biology, ecology, and entomology (the study of insects). The core area of the company’s expertise lies in solutions for invasive species of insects and as such, it is a leading authority on Integrated Pest Management including the use of biological control systems (biopesticides).

Many of our naturally special places are being degraded by pollutants, including pesticides. Our waterways and water pastures, especially, are increasingly threatened by runoff from towns and farms, with pesticides delivering a ‘knock-out blow’ in some of these areas. In Dr. Coupland’s words “Our Naturally Special Places are under threat and the inhabitants therein are especially under threat”. The talk will focus on the threats to pollinators living within these ‘special places’. Pollinators are components which are vital to maintaining the integrity of nature’s landscape for future generations. “Pollinators along with many other species worldwide are under threat for many reasons such as loss of habitat, changing weather patterns and environmental pollutants. In this talk, I will discuss the importance of pollinators to both the ecology of natural habitats and to crop production in Canada. The recent decline in native pollinators and the potential economic impact due to the reduction of both wild and domesticated bees has been the driving force for research into the causes of their decline”, states Dr. Coupland.

Our speaker will discuss what has been revealed thus far by this research and what else needs to be studied and implemented to reduce and reverse this alarming trend.

Please join MVFN for this informative and important presentation. Refreshments and discussion will follow the talk. There is a non-member fee of $5. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair, Gretta Bradley at .

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Pollinators: A Vital Key to Garden Success




Zone 8’s Technical Update Committee is pleased to present a star-studded program featuring a very special keynote speaker, Dr. Peter Kevan. Dr. Kevan will be ably supported by excellent local presenters on the vital matter of pollination – that quiet activity that often goes unnoticed and under-appreciated, but which plays a major role in the ongoing survival of our fragile planet.
We want this up-to-date information to leave you inspired, better equipped to explain the pollination process and ready to take a stand on the protection and encouragement of our complex population of pollinators.


Keynote Speaker
Peter Kevan is Professor in Environmental Biology at the University of Guelph, and is regarded as one of the most active pollination biologists world-wide. He is presently principal investigator on a multi-million dollar NSERC-Canadian Pollination Initiative research network, chair of the Task Force on Declining Pollination of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources), part of the steering committee for the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, and a member of the Canadian Pollinator Protection Initiative. Dr. Kevan is actively involved in initiatives in pollination stemming from the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as many other pollination or pollinator-related projects.

Scott Olan
Scott joined the Ministry of the Environment as a Pesticides Specialist and designated Provincial Officer in Eastern Region in March 2005. Before beginning his career, Scott graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. He is presently working on his Masters of Science in Environment and Management from Royal Roads University. His passion for gardening developed early while growing up on the family farm. Scott has never used pesticides on his lawn. His motto is “enjoy a lawn for what it is, not what others think it should be”. Scott was a Master Gardener from 1997 to 2003. He also spent three years as Zone Director on the MGOI Board. He was a Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture from 1997 – 2006.

Ken Farr
Ken Farr is a forest taxonomist and science policy advisor with the Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada. He is a Registered Professional Forester and a member of the Canadian Institute of Forestry. His current activities include international forest trade issues, invasive forest pests and plant quarantine issues. He is the Canadian Forest Service Scientific Authority for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Ken has taught horticulture, urban forestry and arboriculture in the Horticulture Department of Algonquin College, Ottawa, Ontario and also as adjunct professor of Dendrology at the University of Toronto School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. He was project dendrologist for the well-known reference text Trees in Canada by John Laird Farrar, and is author of the Canadian Forest Service publication The Forests of Canada.

Dale Odorizzi, Gloria Oopzoomer and Ankaret Dean
Partnership for Pollinators
Master Gardeners Gloria Oopzoomer and Dale Odorizzi present a case study on developing and maintaining an all-volunteer public Butterfly Garden, combining the strengths of the Rideau Valley Field Naturalists, Rideau Valley Conservation area and Lanark County Master Gardeners.

The Secret Life of Bees
Master Gardener and Beekeeper, Ankaret Dean, will describe the life of bees and the important plants that attract bees to your garden.

To Register, forward a cheque to the following address, including your name, Mailing Address and Email address if you have one. Also, include any group affiliation (MVFN) or United Counties Master Gardeners
Mail To: E. Falconer, 3276 Klondike Road, North Gower, Ontario K0A 2T0
$35 for Master Gardeners, $40 for all other participants

Lunch and refreshments for the day will be catered by the Algonquin College Catering Service. Cost of all food and beverages is included in your registration fee. If you have special needs, please note them in this section. If we can accommodate them we will.

If you have any questions, please contact Dale Odorizzi at 613 264-8135 or .
Hope to see you there.


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