Maryland Law Seeks to Protect Honey Bees From Neonicotinoid Pesticides


Maryland Law Seeks to Protect Honey Bees From Neonicotinoid Pesticides

Maryland lawmakers are looking at adopting a bill that protects honey bees from certain pesticides. The Pollinator Protection Act will require that plants, seeds, or nurseries that stock plants treated with certain pesticides carry a warning label.

“This place is a hive of activity,” one man quipped as beekeepers entered the Maryland Environmental Legislative Summit dressed in their white canvas suits in Annapolis, Maryland, recently. They had come, mesh hoods hanging down their backs, to show support for the proposed Pollinator Protection Act of 2015. Some wore political buttons emblazoned with a cartoon bee and #beesafe, according to the blog WhereYouArePlanted.

The pesticides are known as neonics, a controversial class of pesticides linked to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). It’s a phenomenon that beekeepers first started to report in 2006 when 30 to 90 percent of their hives died off. CCD occurs when honey bees abandon the hive for unknown reasons. Chensheng Lu and his team of researchers found that even tiny levels of neonicotinoid pesticides may impair honey bees’ neurological function, memory, and cognition, causing them to abandon the hive. Overuse of pesticides may also weaken the bees so they’re more susceptible to other diseases caused by the parasitic Varroa mites. Many environmentalists say the pesticides do more harm than good.

“The critical issues are neonic pesticides are a major contributor to honeybee decline, resulting in Maryland beekeepers losing nearly 50 percent of their hives in 2012,” said Sen. Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who is sponsoring the bill, reported on WRAL.com.

The bill would make the pesticide available to certified applicators and farmers but it would prohibit the use of neonics by retail consumers.

“This bill should be a no-brainer,” said Roger Williams, President of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, as he addressed the standing-room only crowd at the Miller Senate Building, reported on WhereYouArePlanted. Many of those present were beekeepers and environmentalists, but it was a full house.

Beekeepers in Maryland have reported losing some 30 percent of their hives to CCD and in 2012 they lost an astounding 50 percent. Human health and the state’s blue crabs have also been impacted by the pesticides. Pollinators, like honey bees, are extremely important to the economy because they pollenate a whopping 75 percent of flowering plants and nearly 75 percent of crops. Without pollinators we’d have fewer fruits, vegetables including almonds, blueberries, squash, coffee, and chocolate. We wouldn’t have the variety of foods that we so enjoy today, and what we would have would be considerably more expensive without the pollinating done for free by honey bees.

In June, the Obama Administration announced $8 million in funding for farmers and ranchers to establish safe habitats for honey bees who have also been hit hard by the onslaught of pesticide use. Maryland is taking a step in the right direction protecting bees from an unnecessary and hazardous pesticide. I just hope that the number of certified applicators of neonics pesticides are severely limited.

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Image of a closeup honey bee on a flower from Shuttershock

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Sara Novak