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Saving the Bees in Maryland

Maryland has seen dramatic drops in bee numbers. (PANNA)
Maryland has seen dramatic drops in bee numbers. (PANNA)
January 28, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland has been losing its bee population. In 2012, 60 percent of the state's bees died off. Many Beekeepers and scientists believe that can be attributed to neonicotinoids, which are pesticides common in both agriculture and home gardening. They've been around for about 20 years and are used to control a variety of pests.

Delegate Steven Lafferty (D-District 42A) co-sponsored a bill last year to ban the retail sale of the pesticide and any plants, seeds or other materials treated with it. Lafferty says after that bill failed it was changed this year to allow the sale only in specialized stores.

"We're not proposing to prevent the sale of products that have neonicotinoids in them, but they'd have to label them," says Lafferty. "One of the concerns was whether or not the nurseries and others who sell plants for instance would be at an unfair competitive disadvantage."

Lafferty expects the bill will come up for a vote within the next few weeks. Opponents argue the large bee die-offs could be coming instead from poor management, changes in weather patterns, the incorrect application of pesticides, and increased parasites.

Lafferty says there would only be a small percentage of users affected by this legislation, namely home gardeners, because he says they're not using the products correctly.

"Most of us think if we spray it twice when the label says once we think we're improving the likelihood of success, so part of the challenge as consumers is to understand the impacts of what we're doing," he says.

Last fall the Environmental Protection Agency issued a moratorium on new permits to spray neonicotinoids, but did not rescind the permits that have already been issued. When that happened some store owners voluntarily stopped carrying the product.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD