Grassroots organizers, elected officials, and supporters delivered a petition to the Governor's office with over 13,000 signatures in support of protecting pollinators today
"We have a lot at stake right now. Bees are dying at record rates," said Environment North Carolina State Director Drew Ball. Beekeepers report losing an average of 30% of all honey bee colonies each winter, roughly twice the loss considered sustainable. A recent study found that nearly half of all native bees are in decline. This year, beekeepers reported losing 38% of their hives over the 2018-2019 winter, the highest in the survey’s history. “The death of bees leads to many problems, the most immediate is this: no bees means no food," Ball stated.
"The problem is that the federal government has abdicated.” said State Representative Pricey Harrison (HD-61, Guilford) who is a primary sponsor of the House version of the Pollinator Protection Act - H559/S496, which mirrors the requests in the petition. "It’s critical that states act... These are particularly lethal pesticides," Harrison noted. Representative John Ager (HD-115, Buncombe), a sponsor of the Pollinator Protection Act and a farmer, spoke in support of the bill as well. Connecticut and Maryland have both passed legislation that ban the consumer use and sale of neonics and the European Union has banned three neonicotinoids outright.
“Bees are dying at unprecedented rates. If we lose our bees, we lose everything, from strawberries all the way to coffee. That’s why we’ve been working with so many North Carolinians to try to pass a statewide ban on the pesticides killing our bees,” stated Toni Houston, a canvasser with Environment North Carolina. This summer Environment North Carolina canvassers, mostly young college students, traveled door-to-door visiting neighborhoods throughout North Carolina to talk with people about the important role of bees in our food system and discuss the threats that bee colonies are up against. In the process, they collected 13,452 signatures in support of banning the consumer use and sale of neonicotinoid pesticides.
“There is a scientific consensus that neonics are adversely affecting pollinators. They lower pollinators resistance to pests, diseases, and weather. They increase pollinator mortality and they cause colony collapse. Neonics are some of the most commonly used pesticides, and many of the plants that are labeled “pollinator friendly” are laced with neonics”, said Dr. Lior Vered, a PhD in chemistry and policy advocate with Toxic Free NC. “Our ability to protect pollinators from neonics that are already in our environment is very, very limited. That’s why we have to focus on restricting the use of neonics in North Carolina. Pollinators are an important part of our ecosystem, and protecting them is a step in ensuring our biodiversity and prosperous economy for years to come.”
The scope and range of colony collapse affects beekeepers at all levels. “Everyone I know has seen it, from the big beekeeping companies I’ve worked with that manage hundreds of hives to the hobby beekeepers keeping bees in their backyard. I’ve lost a lot of hives myself from combinations of mite and pesticide damage. It’s pervasive, it’s only getting worse, and although there are a lot of threats facing bees, these pesticides are one of the largest that put enormous pressure on bee colonies and beekeepers like myself,” said Harrison Branner, a senior at Duke University who has worked closely with bees as a beekeeper for years.
It is not just honey bees that are in trouble. “According to the available data, 52 percent of US native bees display population declines, and 24 percent are at risk of extinction. Combined, domestic and wild bees provide $24 billion dollars in pollination services to our economy” said Libba Rollins, policy advocate for Environment North Carolina. 100 Crops provide 90 percent of the world’s food, and we rely on bees to pollinate 71 of them. Declining bee populations are a threat to our global food security.
There are several factors that contribute to the decline of bees and other pollinators, including habitat loss, mite infestations, and climate change. However, pesticides also play a critical role in harming bees and represent an immediate policy option that can help bees now. Neonicotinoids, or “neonics” are some of the most widely used insecticides, from large scale agriculture to personal homes and gardens. As non-farming regions have increasingly become the best habitat for bee colonies, we should address this common and problematic use of the pesticides by banning their consumer use and sale. A prettier lawn simply can’t justify the killing of our pollinators that we rely on for our food and biodiversity.