Written by Jessica Jenkins, Communications Intern

As the days get longer and warmer, the average Marylander is spending more and more time in our great outdoors. With this time outside, many are starting their gardening regimen. Thanks to the work of the Smart on Pesticides coalition that we are a part of, we passed the Pollinator Protection Act of 2016 that bans the sale of products containing neonicotinoid (neonics). This helps consumers make safe choices for their families and our pollinators.

On May 25, 2017 Governor Hogan signed the Pollinator Habitat Bill into law. According to the Smart on Pesticides Maryland coalition, “Maryland’s pollinators are at risk, due in part to pesticides and a lack of sufficient habitat. The 2016 Pollinator Habitat Plans law aimed to restore and increase habitat for bees, birds, butterflies and other wildlife. This law requires that Maryland’s Departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Services and the State Highway Administration establish pollinator habitat plans for lands owned or managed by each agency.”

Photo of the Signing of the Pollinator Habitat Law

Last year alone, Maryland beekeepers lost 56% of their hive populations to habitat loss and pesticides. This new law ensures that the required habitat (required by the 2016 law) on state land overseen by the 3 state agencies will be free of neonicotinoid-treated plants, seeds, and spray applications and free of all pesticides labeled toxic to bees. The 2016 law just required designated habitat but failed to ensure that the habitat wouldnt be  treated with bee-killing pesticides. The 2017 law ensures state land habitat will be pollinator- friendly and not pollinator harming.

“Keeping state pollinator habitat free of harmful pesticides will help protect our bees, food supply and the environment,” said Ruth Berlin, executive director of the Maryland Pesticide Education Network. “Maryland is demonstrating once again that we are a national leader in pollinator protection.”

Previously, with our help, a bill became law in 2016 that aimed to increase habitat area for bees and other pollinators but it failed to address pesticides that are known and even sometimes advertised to kill bees. “This is the first law in the country to require that pollinator habitat planted on government land must be neonic-free and free of pesticides labeled toxic to bees,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “Maryland is showing the nation the importance of standing up for pollinators.”

I spoke recently with local Baltimore County beekeeper Luke Goembel who showed me his beehives and told me a little more about bees in Maryland. Maryland bees feed mostly on the flowers of flowering trees, making the spring a very important time for them.

Luke Goembel lost over half of his hives last year and subsequently joined Maryland LCV and other Maryland beekeepers in a grassroots campaign to put an end to using these destructive chemicals. Because of these efforts, we awarded the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association the John V. Kabler Award last year.

“It’s encouraging that as a state with one of the highest rates of bee deaths in the country, Maryland is leading the country to protect our pollinators,” said Bonnie Raindrop, legislative chair of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, who lost all of her bee hives over the winter.