Bee-killing pesticides could be banned in Minnesota under new bill

The measure was created in response to the decline in pollinator population.

February 18, 2020, 11:51 AM

Cities in Minnesota may soon have the option to ban pesticides to save the state's decaying bee and butterfly population under a new state bill.

Rep. Jean Wagenius introduced HF 1255 last week that provides the state's towns and cities with legal authority to ban "pollinator-lethal pesticides" within their jurisdiction. Wagenius, who represents Minneapolis, told ABC News that the chemicals are responsible for the declining population of bees and butterflies which help pollinate the state's crops.

"For some folks, it’s a moral issue, and for others it’s a financial issue," she said. "We’ve have had a lot of our beekeepers take their hives to California."

Under the bill's rules, the municipality's leaders would ban all of the pollinator-lethal pesticides that are listed on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's website. The blanket ban would create more uniformity across the state, according to Wagenius.

PHOTO: File photo: A honeybee carrying pollen, left, returns to a hive in Ohio, May 3, 2007.
File photo: A honeybee carrying pollen, left, returns to a hive in Ohio, May 3, 2007.
File-Bloomberg via Getty Images

"A city could choose to do enforcement differently, but the guts of the bill would be the same," she said.

The country's bee population has been on the decline over the last few years, due to several factors including climate change. Between April 2018 and April 2019, the population decreased by 40.7%, according to the the Bee Informed Partnership, a nonprofit associated with the University of Maryland.

In 2013, Minnesota's state legislature commissioned a pollinator report to quantify the loss of bees and butterflies in the state. The bee data is still being analyzed; however, seven out of the 13 butterfly species that help with pollinations and are native to Minnesota could not be found, according to the state department of agriculture.

Forrest Cyr, the director of government affairs for the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association, said that Wagenius' bill might be too restrictive. Cyr said the state's flora has been under attack by several bug species, including the emerald ash borer, which has been killing trees, and some of those pesticides are the only effective countermeasures.

"If a city has an ordinance like that, we would have very limited ways to treat the trees for those bugs," he said.

Cyr acknowledged the problems caused by the decreasing pollinator population but suggested the state look into initiatives that encourage cities and homeowners to create pollinator habitats.

"While the misuse of pesticides has caused some catastrophic damage to pollinators, we need to have more habitats," he said. "We want to encourage that investment."

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