Beekeepers Will Reintroduce Bill Restricting Neonicotinoid Pesticides During 2016 Session

A November 30, 2015, Bay Journal article reported that Maryland beekeepers plan on introducing legislation during the 2016 Session to restrict the sale of pesticides containing neonicotinoids to commercial and agricultural applicators. Neonicotinoids are suspected of playing a role in the large scale deaths of pollinating honeybees throughout the region. Advocates supported similar legislation last year – the “Pollinator Protection Act of 2015” (HB 605 / SB 163), which was heard in each House but not subject to further committee action. From the article:

Neonicotinoids are not as toxic to humans and other mammals and birds as some other classes of pesticides, but they are lethal to pests such as aphids, which prey on garden plants. Bees ingest the neonicotinoids as they seek pollen from crops and flowers and the poisons enter their cells. The bees can’t break them down and soon die. Without worker bees, the queen can’t maintain the hive, and the colony collapses.

But the bill did not pass, in part because the sponsors could offer no conclusive proof that it was the neonicotinoids that killed the bees. Maryland is one of the states with the largest bee losses. In 2012, Maryland beekeepers lost 60 percent of their bees, about twice the national average and far more than is typical in a year. Opponents to the bill’s passage argued that the die-offs could have come from poor management, changes in weather patterns, the incorrect application of pesticides and increased parasites. The legislators agreed to study the topic and to try to come up with a solution.

The article noted that neonicotinoids are regulated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).  The EPA has announced a moratorium on new neonicotinoid spraying permits in order to further study their effects on bees. The article also provided a number of viewpoints from MDA, beekeeper groups, and individual beekeepers.

Asked about the Pollinator Protection Act, [MDA] spokesperson Julie Oberg referred to the department’s legislative comment on the bill. It says that the department will face “ a significant additional fiscal and operational burden” if the bill passed. …

Wayne Esaias, a NASA scientist who was past president of the Maryland Beekeepers Association, said neonicotinoids are only part of the problem. But, he said, if the state passed the Pollinator Protection Act, it should also add more provisions for better enforcement. …

Bonnie Raindrop, who raises bees in Pennsylvania and Baltimore County, said she’s concerned about the lack of income and also the future of bees in Maryland. She lost 50 percent of her bees in 2012, all of them in 2013, and half again in 2014.

“We don’t have time to debate whether it’s the one thing [neonicotinoids] — which most beekeepers agree that it’s not. But it is the one thing we can address pretty quickly,” Raindrop said.