As the debate over the use neonicotinoids continues nationally, legislation soon to be awaiting the governor’s signature in Maryland would make that state the first to ban homeowner use of the popular pesticide.
Landscapers in Maryland needn’t worry as yet. The state’s legislature only prohibited homeowners from purchasing and using insecticides with neonicotinoid class chemicals such as imidacloprid, nithiazine, acetamiprid, and thiamethoxam.
The legislation, called the Pollinator Protection Act of 2016, was introduced in both chambers of the Maryland Legislature. Unlike a similar proposal in Illinois, the Maryland bill won final approval in both the House and Senate. Legislators are working to resolve differences in each chamber’s version before sending the bill on to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature.
Hogan’s office will say only that the governor has not indicated whether he will sign the bill. If Hogan does sign the bill, the law will take effect in 2018.
The Maryland law would not apply to certified applicators, farmers or veterinarians.
According to The Washington Post, Maryland has lost more than 60 percent of its bee hives in the past year. Bee keepers joined conservationists in pushing for the legislation.
Opponents of the bill argue that neonics are not the cause of bees’ decline, which they attribute to poor nutrition and the varroa mite.
The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association has been monitoring the situation and acknowledges that if the legislation is enacted, it could open the door for the government to ban the use of neonics by landscapers, too, eventually.
“The association would like, on the behalf of our members, to back proven science,” said Vanessa Finney, executive director of MNLGA. “We don’t want to take effective, safe options out of the toolbox when neonics are just not 100 percent proven to be bad.”
In the bill’s fiscal notes, it lists a possible increase in business for pest control as homeowners will have to enlist professionals’ help if they want neonicotinoid pesticides used.
Finney sees the bill as sending out a negative message that the product is bad – so bad that average citizens can’t be trusted to use the chemicals.
“That’s not the message we want to send, either,” she said. “The science isn’t showing that.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing neonicotinoid pesticides to determine whether they play a role in bee deaths, although the agency is not expected to report its results until 2018.