VICTORY: Gov. Polis signs bill limiting bee-killing pesticides

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DENVER — Colorado on Wednesday became the ninth U.S. state, and the first outside the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, to limit the sale of dangerous bee-killing pesticides. Gov. Jared Polis signed SB23-266, sponsored by state Sens. Kevin Priola and Sonya Jaquez Lewis and state Reps. Cathy Kipp and Kyle Brown.

SB23-266 would direct the state Department of Agriculture, by January 1, 2024, to categorize neonics used in gardens and other outdoor spaces as “limited-use” pesticides that can only be sold by pesticide dealers. This would remove these neonics from store shelves at most garden stores and big box retailers and would reduce their overall use.

“Colorado is taking some of the sting out of an increasingly toxic environment for bees,” said Ellen Montgomery, public lands campaign director with Environment Colorado. “Taking these pesticides off the shelves is a critical step toward saving the bees. We can now promise our pollinators, which play such a critical role in the health of our ecosystems from the plains to the mountains, a safer Centennial State. We’re thrilled to see the legislature and governor help save the bees.”

The new law comes at a critical moment for pollinators’ health in Colorado, home to 946 native bee species. One recent study found the western bumble bee has declined 72% in parts of Colorado and attributes the decline, in part, to the class of insecticides called neonicotinoids (neonics).

“From Palisade peaches to Rocky Ford melons, apples to alfalfa, our state depends on pollinators for a healthy food supply and healthy gardens,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG’s executive director. “Pesticides such as neonics, which are so deadly for bees and other key pollinators, should not be sold on store shelves. The risk to the health of our state is too high and not worth it.”

According to a study published in the journal PLOS One, neonics are 1,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT. Sublethal doses cause immune deficiencies and disorientation, making it hard for bees to forage, fly, return to their hive, and complete other essential tasks such as ridding themselves of parasitic varroa mites.

“We’ve known for years that neonics are contributing to the mass killing of our pollinators,” said Sen. Jaquez Lewis. “In order to protect Colorado’s crops and the food we eat, it is essential we act now to protect the bees that make it all possible. We made sure that Senate Bill 266 won’t be a big sting for farmers or veterinarians in our state, nor should it be. This bill is really about getting farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, industry partners and politicians all on the same page so we can protect our pollinators and food supply moving forward.”

“SB23-266 is an important step in protecting pollinators,” said Sen. Priola. “By raising the education level required to apply them, neonics can still be used when absolutely necessary while reducing the amount of overapplication in our environment.”