Minnesota Is Cracking Down on Pesticides in Order to Save Bees

Last week, Governor Mark Dayton ordered the implementation of a range of protections that are intended to protect the lives of bees.

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Sep 4 2016, 8:00pm

When it comes to protecting bees in the US, Minnesota is way ahead of all the other states. Last week, Governor Mark Dayton ordered the implementation of a range of protections that are intended to protect the lives of bees.

This is certainly not the first time Minnesota has led the way when it comes to our stinging, apian friends. Back in March, we told you that Minnesota had an unusual law that allowed beekeepers to be compensated for pesticide poisoning of their hives; the state actually reimbursed two beekeepers whose bees were damaged by neonicotinoids, the most widely used class of insecticides. Known as "neonics," the pesticides are often used as coatings for corn and soybean seeds.

Now, the Democratic governor issued an executive order, which requires a "verification of need" before farmers are allowed to use neonics. The order also requires the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to implement restrictions on pesticides, increase inspections, develop pollinator stewardship materials, and to promote best management practices.

READ MORE: Now We Know Why Bee Colonies Are Dying Near Corn Fields

Nothing as extensive as Minnesota's regulations exists in the other 49 states. On the national level, the EPA says it is taking a look at neonics, but has yet to impose any new restrictions on the pesticides.

In addition to Dayton's new executive order, Minnesota's Department of Agriculture has suggested a "Treated Seed Program" that, if approved by the state legislature, would impose further restrictions with regard to treated seeds.

In a news conference, Governor Dayton said, "We want to work cooperatively with user groups. We're not trying to ban anybody's practices or businesses, but there's a lot more we can do, all of us, more sensibly, with better awareness, to protect the pollinators."

According to the Star Tribune, Marla Spivak, a University of Minnesota bee expert, said that the governor's order "puts Minnesota miles ahead of all the other states in our nation… Some may think that these actions go too far, but I honestly don't know a farmer, a nursery operator, a grower, a pesticide applicator that wants to kill a bee or monarch while they're controlling their crop pests."

READ MORE: Nearly Half of America's Beehives Died Last Year

The move came a few days before millions upon millions of bees suddenly began to die in South Carolina. While the cause of the sudden deaths has yet to be verified, the dead bees littering the state's apiaries suggest the problem is not due to colony collapse disorder. Many beekeepers have already blamed it on the controversial insecticide Naled, which was sprayed in parts of Dorchester County the same day the bees began to die.

Cornell University's pesticide database states that "Naled is highly toxic to bees." Just to give you an idea of the scope of the incident, approximately 2.5 million bees from over 46 hives happened to die at just a single apiary, Flowertown Bee Farm and Supply. The company's co-owner, Juanita Stanley, told the Associated Press that the apiary "looks like it's been nuked."

If bees still exist in a hundred years, we may have Minnesota's progressive bee legislation to thank.