Editor’s note: The information presented below may no longer be relevant or accurate.
I have seen the precipitous decline in bee populations while beekeeping over the past 20 years. I recently lost all three of my beehives this past year, more than at any time in my beekeeping career. Yes, I can replace them, but it is costly. According to the USDA, my state of Maryland lost 61% of their honeybee population last year, which is two times higher than the national average.
The cause of this decline in bee population is neonics — a pesticide that persists in all the plant parts. As of 2018, my home state of Maryland banned consumer use of neonics. Maryland is actually set to be the first state in the U.S. to ban neon’s for consumer usage. However, it’s important to note that other pesticides affect bees, too, and we will have to do much more than simply banning this class of pesticides.
Check your store and the label of common products (such as Bayer Rose & Flower Care) for neonic chemicals with ingredient names like: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiacloprid, thiamethoxam, nitenpyram, and nithiazine. If you see a product containing any of these chemicals, please take a picture with your phone and send in the store name, location and date to Maryland Dept. of Agriculture Pesticide Regulation Program, Dennis Howard, email: email@example.com.
Unfortunately, the legislation does include exceptions for farmers and veterinarians, though it still marks a step in the right direction. Another exception involves pet care products, particularly those related to fleas, mites, ticks, and heartworms. Anyone who violates this rule will be forced to pay a $250 fine. Homeowners are known for applying extremely high levels of neonics by not following directions and thinking that the more insecticide they apply the better.
Neonicotinoid pesticides contribute to mortality of all pollinators such as bees, birds and butterflies. Non-pesticide-related threats — loss of forage or parasites — are made worse by neonicotinoid exposure.
Pollinator extinction poses a huge threat to food security, because about 75 percent of all foods crops require a pollinator to grow.
Spurred by the high level of bee losses, several cities have enacted outright bans on neonicotinoids. Several states, like California, Alaska, New York, and Massachusetts, are currently considering legislation that would ban neonicotinoids, though none of the proposals have made it through the state’s legislature.