In the June 2022 Bay Leaf, we featured easy-to-grow locally native pollinator-friendly plants you can add to your garden to support local pollinators. This month, there’s something even easier but more urgent you can do for pollinators: call to encourage your State Senator to pass a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides for non-agricultural uses like golf courses, public landscapes, and home gardens.
Neonicotinoid insecticides, also known as neonics, are neurotoxins. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that neonics are a leading cause of bee and other pollinator declines. Even trace amounts of neonics kill bees and have a variety of sublethal effects that make it difficult for surviving bees to maintain colonies and reproduce.
California Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, whose district includes large swaths of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, introduced AB 2146, also known as California’s Pollinator Protection Act, which bans the use of the neonics imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, and acetamiprid on non-agricultural crops. The website for the advocacy group Center for Food Safety lists dozens of consumer products containing neonics that would be banned for non-agricultural use if this legislation passes.
Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticides and are incredibly toxic to pollinators—just one square foot of grass treated with a typical neonic lawn product can contain enough of the toxin to kill one million bees. Most of the chemicals, however, stay in the soil, where they remain for years and are easily carried by rain or watering.
Neonics broadly contaminate California’s environment, threatening the collapse of entire ecosystems. State water testing has detected neonics in the vast majority of samples statewide, including 92% of samples in urban areas of Southern California. And they are found at levels that likely harm aquatic life, killing insects and other invertebrates and starving the birds, fish, and other species that rely on them for food.
On June 16 of this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final Endangered Species Act biological evaluations for three of the neonics addressed in AB 2146. The EPA found that each neonic is likely to adversely affect from two-thirds to over three-fourths of America’s endangered species, a total of 1,225 to 1,445 species. Among those species are all amphibians and the majority of already-endangered fish, birds, and mammals, as well as pollinators and the plants they pollinate. In California, these species include the Chinook salmon, whooping crane, California red-legged frog, yellow larkspur (Delphinium luteum), and more.
We’re happy to report that in late May the California State Assembly voted 45-14 to pass AB 2146. “Bees are the backbone of our state’s ecosystem” said Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan. “California is far behind other states and countries in limiting these highly toxic chemicals. We must address the home and garden uses that seriously threaten ecological and human health.”
Now we look to the State Senate to continue the legislative process of turning AB 2146 into law. AB 2146 will come up for a vote in the State Senate this summer, so please speak up for pollinators by calling your State Senator soon and asking them to support AB 2146.
— Staff, CNPS State Office, and Sue Rosenthal, Bay Leaf editor