The Baltimore Sun reports the Maryland senate passed a bill earlier this month that would ban stores from selling products laced with neonicotinoids to homeowners that spray them on their gardens. Neonics, or Neonicotinoid, is a systemic pesticide that once ingested by a plant stays in the plant tissues.
According to the Washington Post, a coalition of beekeepers, academics, and conservationists back HB 605, otherwise known as the Pollinator Protection Act. Under the proposed law, only certified applicators, including veterinarians and farmers, could buy the pesticide. The bill would also require labeling of all products containing neonics, with the label reading, “WARNING: Bees are essential to many agricultural crops. This product has been treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, found to be a major contributor to bee deaths and the depletion of the bee population.”
Per the Post, Maryland lost over 60 percent of its hives last year, each with up to 20,000 honeybees. Other states may take similar steps as honey production declines. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, honey production fell 12 percent among producers with five or more colonies last year.
Opponents of HB 605 include pesticide manufacturers and some pet owners. One opinion letter to the Baltimore Sun contends, “There is some consensus that honey bee losses are likely caused by a combination of stresses, including poor nutrition, loss of forage land, parasites and pathogens, lack of genetic diversity and, yes, pesticides. One well accepted bad guy is the parasitic Varroa mite, which kills honey bee colonies. The decline of native pollinators is likely due to the loss of suitable habitat.”
The Washington Post notes neonicotinoids were made available to the public recently as a safer alternative for bees than other pesticides. However, researchers debate whether the bees are dying because of the pesticide. The Environmental Protection Agency launched a review to determine if several varieties of the insecticide have contributed to the collapse of bee colonies and its findings are due in 2018.
A copy of HB 605 is available here.