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Proposed Ban On ‘Bee-Toxic Pesticides’ Buzzes Into State Legislature

Seacoast Beekepers Association

New Hampshire lawmakers on Tuesday will take up a proposal to ban most uses of pesticides that are toxic to bees.  The House bill comes from second-term Nashua Democrat Catherine Sofikitis.

It would ban the use and sale in the state of insecticides and treated seeds that fall under four chemical classes: neonicotinoids (also known as neonics), sulfoxamines, butenolides and phenyl-pyrazoles.

Chemicals within these groups have been linked – along with certain viruses and parasites – to global honeybee colony collapse disorder and other risks to bees and other pollinators, which are vital to growing food and other plants.

Recent data for New Hampshire shows this disorder in action: the state lost 65 percent of its bee hives in the winter of 2016 to 2017, and 58 percent between 2017 and 2018.

The state Beekeepers Association says hives treated for varroa mites, another suspected cause of colony collapse disorder, had the best survival rates last year. But they say the overall colony loss is “most likely due to more than one issue.”

The legislature’s proposed pesticide ban would include exceptions for pet and personal care products and indoor pest controls.

Regulators would also have to tell the legislature more about all the pesticides being used in the state, and convene a panel that would monitor new scientific findings about pesticide toxicity and recommend updates to the ban.

State agricultural and environmental officials would also have to release guidelines for farmers, gardeners and other residents, focused on transitioning away from toxic substances and toward pollinator-friendly habitats.

If the bill passes, New Hampshire would become one of just a handful of states – including Connecticut – that have some kind of ban on pesticides thought to be toxic to bees.

The first hearing on the bill is set for 2 p.m. Tuesday in the House Agriculture Committee.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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