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Maryland Just Became the Most Bee-Friendly State in the U.S.

Animals
Maryland Just Became the Most Bee-Friendly State in the U.S.

Yesterday Maryland led the country by being the first state in the country to pass a bill to eliminate consumer use of neonicotinoid pesticides—a leading driver of global bee declines. This is a major victory in the fight to protect bees and will hopefully compel other states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to follow.

Yesterday Maryland led the country by being the first state in the country to pass a bill to eliminate consumer use of neonicotinoid pesticides—a leading driver of global bee declines. Photo credit: Friends of the Earth

The House and Senate passed the bill with bi-partisan support not a moment too late. Last year, Maryland beekeepers lost more than 61 percent of their hives—twice the national average and far higher than the 10 percent losses considered sustainable. If Maryland hadn’t passed this bill, many beekeepers were concerned that they would become an endangered species alongside bees and other essential pollinators.

If we lose our bees and beekeepers, we risk losing one in three bites of food we eat. Bees are essential to our food system. In Maryland, honeybee pollination directly supports the agriculture industry in the state and is valued at more than $26 million, annually.

This bill reflects the growing body of research that confirms neonicotinoids kill and harm bees and other pollinators, like butterflies and birds as well as aquatic life including molting blue crabs. These pesticides pose a serious threat to our food supply, public health and environment.

While neonicotinoids are widely used in agriculture, their use in gardens, lawns and landscapes are an important contributing factor to bee decline. Some garden products containing neonicotinoids can be applied at doses up to 120 times higher than are used on farms and can continue “expressing” these pesticides in home gardens where they can continue to contaminate soil and be taken up by plants for months to years.

Maryland’s bill passed because Marylanders overwhelmingly supported the measures. In a 2015 survey, 78 percent of Maryland voters favored restricting consumer use of this type of pesticides. This support is significant because the last time Maryland passed legislation regulating pesticides use was in 1998 with the Integrated Pest Management in Schools Law, which was expanded to include IPM on school grounds in 1999.

While Maryland is the first state to pass a bill banning all consumer use of neonicotinoids, other states have considered or are currently considering similar legislation. Bills to restrict neonicotinoids were introduced during the 2015-2016 legislative sessions in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Virginia and Vermont.

Aside from states, more than 30 retailers in the U.S., including Home Depot and Lowe’s, have committed to taking steps to eliminate these pesticides from store shelves and more than 20 cities, municipalities and universities have passed policies to eliminate the use of these pesticides.

The EPA is starting to listen to the strong body science by placing a moratorium on new or expanded uses of neonicotinoids, but these regulations still don’t address the more than 500 neonicotinoid products currently on the market, designed for more than 100 uses. In January, the agency confirmed that the neonicotinoid imidaclodprid is highly toxic to bees.

We know the action of Maryland will help bees. Take Italy—it went from losing 37.5 percent of its hives in 2008 to only 15 percent in 2010 after it restricted neonicotinoids. If bees rebounded that much after just a few years, imagine the impact the EPA could have if it banned all bee-killing pesticides.

The passage of Maryland’s bill is a big victory for bees. Next, it's vitally important that other states, EPA and Congress follow the lead of Maryland by taking action to ban the use of these pesticides to protect bees, our food supply and the environment.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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