UPDATED: NJ Moves Toward Restricting Bee-toxic Neonics

March 5, 2020 UPDATE: Today, the New Jersey Senate voted to pass S.1016, 32-7, with substantial bipartisan support. The bill now moves to the assembly, where we will be pushing for a floor vote. Passage of the bill would give New Jersey's pollinators and ecosystems the strongest protections in the nation against toxic neonic pesticides. Take action now by clicking here

Overuse of neonicotinoid insecticides, or neonics, is a nationwide problem. But with EPA unwilling to act—despite its own assessments showing harms to pollinators, birds, and entire ecosystems—states have to step up to protect their wildlife from these neurotoxins. New Jersey has a chance to do just that by passing S.1016, a bill that would ban use of neonics on lawns, golf courses, and other non-agricultural settings in New Jersey.

The neonic problem in New Jersey is somewhat unique. Unlike heavy agricultural states in the Midwest, the bulk of neonics that enter the environment come from non-agricultural uses, like lawns and golf courses. In fact, landscapers in New Jersey used over thirty thousand pounds of imidacloprid—the most common neonic in residential settings—on lawns and golf courses in 2016. Keep in mind that just 1.25mg of imidacloprid can kill upwards of a quarter million bees!

Use of imidacloprid on lawns is a primary driver of neonic contamination. EPA recently found that certain lawn applications pose risks to children and adults.

Image by Pixabay

While the primary neonic uses in New Jersey are unique, the result of their use is the same: widespread contamination of soils and surface waters. Just a few years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted surface water sampling in New Jersey and detected imidacloprid in about 90% of samples. Last year, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection began testing surface waters throughout the state for neonics. They found imidacloprid in about 43% of samples. Even worse, the pesticide is routinely detected at levels that EPA predicts cause chronic harm to aquatic invertebrates.

Decimating aquatic invertebrate populations has ripple effects on entire ecosystems, as many species, from fish to birds to other wildlife, depend on those invertebrates for food. For example, researchers recently found that neonic contamination in Japan caused the collapse of a fishery in just a single year by killing off zooplankton vital to the fish’s survival.

Many fish, including trout, depend heavily on aquatic insects for food.

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

To address these harms, as well as the well-established impacts of neonics on bees and other pollinators, Senator Bob Smith introduced S.1016 in January of this year. The bill bans non-agricultural uses of neonics outdoors, thereby addressing the largest contributor of neonic contamination in New Jersey. Just this week, the Senate Environment and Energy Committee passed the bill out of committee, setting up a floor vote on the measure.

By passing this bill, New Jersey can be a leader in addressing the pervasive threat of neonic overuse. The bill would be the strongest to date, and a model for other heavily urban and suburban states. Check back for updates on the bill’s progress and for information about how to get involved.

About the Authors

Lucas Rhoads

Staff Attorney, Pollinator Initiative, Nature program

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