In New York State honey bees pollinate many high-value crops, including apples, soybeans, squash and pumpkins, cucumbers, strawberries, peaches, raspberries and blackberries, pears, and blueberries. But across the state, commonly used insecticides– called neonicotinoids, or neonics–are killing bees and hurting crop production, not to mention polluting our water and soil, and risking human health impacts for pregnant women. In fact, recent research shows rising levels of neonics in 95+% of pregnant women from New York, four other states, and Puerto Rico.
In July, the New York State legislature passed a first-in-the-nation Birds and Bees Protection Act (A.7640/S.1856A) that would limit the use of neonics. It now awaits Governor Hochul’s signature. The bill would prevent corn, soybean, and wheat seeds from being treated with neonicotinoid chemicals, starting in 2027. This would eliminate 80%-90% of the neonics entering New York’s environment yearly, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has studied the impact of pesticides on pollinators. Cornell’s New York State Beekeeper Tech Team found thiamethoxam– a neonic insecticide that poses a high risk to bees– was present in 39% honey bee colonies across New York in 2021. In addition, a Cornell survey of New York’s native insect pollinators revealed that 38% of the studied pollinators risk becoming locally extinct. In the worst-case scenario, up to 60% of these species face local extinction.
While the Birds and Bees Protection Act does not go as far as Europe’s total outdoor neonic ban, it is the first law to address neonics in the U.S. Details about the bill are available here.