The 2016 state legislative cycle has been marked by a significant number of states examining the issue of pollinator health. Multiple states have already established Pollinator Protection Task Forces, announced plans to release studies on issues impacting pollinator health, or considered legislation designed to protect our nation’s pollinator population. As many states look to conclude session business for the year, the trend of seeking means to address concerns over recent reported declines in pollinator populations continued with two states acting on the issue in the past week.
In Connecticut the legislature passed a plan designed to protect the state’s honey bee population as well as other native pollinators. Senate Bill 231 now awaits further action by the governor. If approved, the use of neonicotinoids (neonics) on Linden and Basswood trees would no longer be allowed at any time. In addition, neonic application would not be allowed on plants when they bear blossoms, and neonics would be reclassified as a restricted use substance and not be available for retail sale. In addition, the state would establish a Pollinator Advisory Committee that would be comprised of staff from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.
In Vermont, legislation has reached the governor’s desk that calls for the establishment of a Pollinator Protection Committee. During the session, legislators did not act on a bill that would have significantly restricted the use of neonics. Under the provisions of HB 531, Vermont would establish a new Committee tasked with evaluating the status of pollinators in Vermont using the United States Department of Agriculture’s “five pillars of pollinator health” which includes biology; nutrition and habitat; pathogens and pests; pesticide use; and genetics and breeding. Composition of the Pollinator Protection Committee is defined in the legislation and includes significant representation from landscape and lawn care industry sectors.
Finally, in a related development new research conducted by Purdue University suggests that the decline in CO2 levels in goldenrod for many years has depleted the nutrient value of that important protein source for pollinators over the last 70+ years. This research further adds to the complexity of the multifaceted factors that can contribute to declines in pollinator populations.