Scott signs pollinator bill; supporters continue push for pesticide ban

Published: May. 31, 2019 at 3:09 PM EDT
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Honey bees are crucial to the environment, but experts say some pesticides are threatening their existence. A new signed into law this week by Gov. Phil Scott aims to protect bees and other crucial pollinators.

Neonicotinoids are a pesticide that has seen wide use, but emerging research shows they might have harmful impacts on pollinators.

"You go into the hive it's almost like a detective story. What's happening? What's changed? What's causing it? What should I be worrying about?" said Mike Davis, who along with his wife Robin, maintain three hives on the outskirts of Montpelier.

They face plenty of challenges keeping the colonies healthy and neonicotinoids may be one of them. "It is one of the scarier type of potential threats to bees because these compounds are in such wide use and can have potentially potent effects in very small concentrations," Davis said.

Gov. Phil Scott signed a bill earlier this week. It significantly restricts the use of neonicotinoids and makes them no longer widely available.

"Only people who have had training and are licensed with the Agency of Agriculture can use these pesticides," said Andrea Stander with the group Rural Vermont.

Vermont is now among a handful of states to restrict the use of neonicotinoids. The European Union, meanwhile, has adopted a complete ban on the outdoor use of such insecticides. "I've heard, anecdotally, that Europe has been more aggressive in this area and has had less problems, but I don't know the scientific data behind it," Davis said.

Shaina Kasper with Toxins Action Center says Neonicotinoids are systemic, meaning the chemicals make the entire plant, including pollen and nectar, toxic. And they stay present in the environment months or years after application. "These neonicotinoid pesticides are particularly harmful for our pollinators, which we rely on for all of our food," she said.

Vermont joins Maryland and Connecticut in restricting use of neonicotinoids. But Stander says her group and others will push for a complete ban. "We will be back next year with a stronger proposal," she said.

Nationwide, 40 percent of hives were lost between 2017 and 2018. But in Vermont, officials say the loss was upwards of 57 percent.