Mar 26, 2016

Maryland’s honeybees are being massacred, and the weapon might be in your house - The Washington Post

In the end, Maryland lawmakers couldn't ignore the same haunting story from beekeepers. "I go into winter with a really strong population, managed them to be fat and healthy, treated for mites, with plenty of food," said Bonnie Raindrop, a keeper in Baltimore County. "But at the end of winter, you open your hives and they're all dead." 

The keepers joined academics and conservationists in convincing the state General Assembly that the mass deaths over the past four years are likely tied to widespread use of household pesticides linked to honeybee mortality. Both chambers recently passed bills that would ban stores from selling products laced with neonicotinoids to homeowners who tend to lather too much on trees and gardens.

The similar bills  are expected to be forged into a single piece of legislation for Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to sign within two weeks. Hogan's signature would make Maryland the first state to take the harmful pesticides away from amateurs. Farmers and professionals who better understand how to apply them in a way that poses a lesser threat to bees would be exempted by the law when it takes effect in 2018.

Maryland lost more than 60 percent of its hives last year, each with up to 20,000 honeybees. About a dozen other states are considering taking similar steps as bees die and honey production declines. Last year, honey production fell  12 percent among producers with five or more colonies, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey.

Neonicotinoids were introduced to agriculture in the 1990s and made available to the general public more recently because it was thought to be safer for bees than other pesticides. They seep into plants rather than simply coating the surface. Although some researchers insist the chemical doesn't cause bee mortality, other scientists are gathering evidence that it does. The Environmental Protection Agency launched a review to determine if several varieties of the insecticide have contributed to the collapse of bee colonies. Its findings are due in 2018.