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Rep. Dykema Educates Colleagues on Pollinator Protection

by Press Release
February 18, 2018

“As we continue to educate and discuss this issue with a wide group of stakeholders, it’s clear that there is ample evidence to support limits on neonicotinoid use,” said Rep. Dykema.

 

Representative Carolyn Dykema of Holliston, along with Senator Jamie Eldridge of Acton and Representative Mary Keefe of Worcester, continued Beacon Hill advocacy on legislation to protect pollinators by limiting use of neonicotinoid pesticides through H.4041, An Act to protect Massachusetts pollinators.

The legislators welcomed Dr. Robert Gegear, a professor of biology from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, who briefed members and staff on the impacts that neonicotinoid pesticides have on wild and managed bee populations, underscoring the scientific argument for the sensible steps toward pollinator protection. Dr. Gegear investigates brain-behavior relationships in pollinating insects, with particular focus on the impacts of environmental stressors on different bee species.

Neonicotinoid pesticides, commonly known as “neonics,” are a class of systemic insecticide associated with negative impacts on bees and other pollinators. H.4041 would restrict use of “neonics” to licensed and trained users only. The Massachusetts County Beekeepers Association has worked to organize an extensive grassroots advocacy movement in support of the bill, which is also supported by a number of professional organizations, including agriculture industry groups such as the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association, the Massachusetts Flower Growers Association, and the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association.

“As we continue to educate and discuss this issue with a wide group of stakeholders, it’s clear that there is ample evidence to support limits on neonicotinoid use,” said Rep. Dykema. “The research of Dr. Gegear and his colleagues in the field confirms that the impacts on bees from exposure are significant and persist long after application. I’m proud to be working with Senator Eldridge and Representative Keefe to advance a bill that will take steps to protect both our pollinators and our environment.”

Dr. Gegear highlighted the impacts of neonicotinoid exposure to local pollinators at levels far below the 25 parts per billion threshold identified by the EPA.  In one sample, wild bees lost half their male population after only three days of exposure to 10 ppb, and half their worker population after 5 days. Queen bees, essential to the maintenance of a stable colony population, fall below 50 percent survival rates after roughly 10 days of exposure.

“This bill will significantly reduce the presence of neonicotinoids in the wild, which help to keep our native bees and other insect pollinators humming for years to come,” said Dr. Gegear. “Our research has shown that bumblebee pollinators consuming field-realistic doses of clothianidin, one of the newer neonicotinoid formulations, for prolonged periods of time have increased mortality.  Importantly, our research also demonstrates that neonicotinoid sensitivity varies considerably between and even within pollinators species. For example, bumblebees, one of our most important wild pollinators in the state, are twice as sensitive to neonicotinoids as honeybees.”

The original bill has the bipartisan support of two-thirds of the state legislature, and the briefing was attended by several of the bill’s supporters, including Rep. Jeff Roy (D-Franklin), Rep. Kim Ferguson (R-Holden), Rep. Jim Cantwell (D-Marshfield), Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham), Rep. Paul Schmid (D-Westport), and Rep. Chris Walsh (D-Framingham). Rep. Walsh and Rep. Keefe are both hobbyist beekeepers as well, and Rep. Keefe has filed related legislation supporting increased efforts to protect and expand native pollinators’ habitats.

"I'm growing increasingly concerned that neonicotinoids are destroying honey bee colonies across the planet and threatening the health of our ecosystems,” Sen. Eldridge said. "Having fewer bees to pollinate our crops will have a catastrophic impact on our food supply and damage local economies. I want to thank Representative Dykema for her leadership on protecting pollinators in Massachusetts, and Dr. Gegear for underscoring the scientific argument for the sensible steps toward pollinator protection proposed in H.4041.”

“Today’s briefing on pollinator health contained information on the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting reasonable restrictions of neonicotinoids,” said Rep. Keefe. “It’s important that we continue to create policies aimed at promoting a healthy environment for pollinators, which will lead to direct benefits for our whole eco-system.”

H.4041 was released from the Joint Committee on the Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture with a unanimous favorable report in November and is under consideration by the House Committee on Ways and Means.

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Representative Carolyn Dykema represents the communities of Holliston, Hopkinton, Southborough and Precinct 2 of Westborough in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

 

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