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

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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.

The Obama administration announced the first national strategy to promote the health of bees and other pollinators, following the sharp decline in colony numbers in recent years. USDA bee scientist Jay Evans explains why honeybees are so important and how bees affect food prices. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)

Two years ago, an team of global, independent scientists that formed the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides concluded that neonics are a key factor in bee declines after reviewing a thousand studies. The report said they should be restricted.

Hogan has given no indication about his intention to sign or reject the bill, but Del. Anne Healey (D-Prince George’s), who authored the House version, said it had strong bipartisan support, and there appeared to be enough votes to override a veto. “I’m a little nervous talking about things that haven’t happened yet,” Healey said. “There were very strong votes in both houses. The public is very much in favor … of doing something to protect our pollinators in the state.”

Healey said a new law would “be a landmark, and it would set a standard that maybe other states would follow.” She called it a “step in the right direction.” 

Maryland’s Department of Agriculture disagreed, saying that they too care about the decline of bees but that there is little scientific evidence linking it to neonicotinoids. A spokesman at the department declined to comment on the legislation but provided its testimony from a committee hearing opposing it.

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via WashingtonPost

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