Many states have enacted legislation to consider the issues impacting pollinator health. Policy approaches for maintaining and restoring pollinator health generally fall into five categories: research, pesticide uses, habitat protection, beekeeping and public awareness.
At least 18 states enacted pollinator related legislation in 2022. Nine of these states—Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont—passed legislation to address pollinator exposure to pesticides. For example, Vermont placed limits on the use of neonicotinoids and directed the establishment of pollinator health benchmarks. States continued to consider legislation regarding the protection and restoration of native pollinator habitat including Minnesota, which made appropriations to establish new populations of flowers that are essential for pollinator health. Colorado and West Virginia appropriated funds for pollinator health research. Several states also enacted legislation to promote public awareness of pollinators, such as the creation of new license plates that fund educational campaigns.
Understanding how factors such as disease, pesticide use and habitat loss impact pollinator populations can help states develop policies to address pollinator health. At least 13 states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington—have enacted legislation to study issues related to pollinator health. Research or study topics have included pesticide use, pollinator habitat and Colony Collapse Disorder.
Examples of enacted legislation:
- Colorado (SB 199 – 2022): Concerns a study regarding the protection of native pollinating insects in the state and appropriates funds to the Department of Natural Resources for study implementation.
- Connecticut (SB 231 – 2016): Convenes the Pollinator Advisory Committee to inform the legislature on matters pertaining to pollinators in the state.
- Massachusetts (HB 4000 – 2019): Makes appropriations for research into the potential impacts of insecticides on pollinators.
- Minnesota (HB 3172 – 2014): Designates the Minnesota Zoological Garden as the official state pollinator bank, creates a program to avert the extinction of pollinator species by cultivating insurance breeding populations.
- Minnesota (HB 1545 – 2017): Appropriates funds to the University of Minnesota for pollinator research and outreach, including the identification and establishment of pollinator’s habitats.
- New York (SB 1504 – 2019): Appropriates funds for research into pollinator diversity and best practices for bee colony maintenance and creating diversity of pollinator habitat.
- Texas (SB 1 – 2021): Appropriates funds for research for the Honey Bee Disease Program. Vermont (HB 539 – 2016): Establishes a Pollinator Protection Committee to evaluate the causes of reduced pollinator populations and recommend measures to conserve and protect pollinator populations, including the study of best management practices for neonicotinoid pesticides.
- Virginia (SB 356 – 2016): Directs the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop a pollinator protection strategy to promote the health of and mitigate the risks to honey bees and other pollinators, as well as ensuring a strong agricultural economy and apiary industry. The strategy must include voluntary best management practices for pesticide users, beekeepers, landowners and agricultural producers.
Exposure to pesticides is one of multiple factors that may contribute to the decline of bees and other pollinator populations. Neonicotinoids, a widely used class of insecticides developed in the 1990s, are believed to be particularly harmful. Unlike traditional insecticides applied to the surface of plants, neonicotinoids are absorbed into plant tissue and can be present in pollen and nectar, making them accessible to pollinators. At least 18 states have enacted legislation aimed at shielding pollinators from the potential effects of pesticides. At least nine of these states—Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont—enacted legislation in 2022 to address pollinator exposure to pesticides.
Examples of enacted legislation:
- Connecticut (SB 231 – 2016): Directs the commissioner of agriculture, in coordination with others, to develop best practices for minimizing airborne liberation of neonicotinoid pesticide dust from treated seeds and mitigating the effects of such dust on pollinators. Requires the commissioner to classify all neonicotinoids that are labeled for treating plants as restricted use.
- Hawaii (SR 136/HR 108 – 2019): Urges the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture to take measures to limit pollinator exposure to neonicotinoids.
- Maine (HB 111 – 2022): Directs the Board of Pesticides Control to prohibit the use of certain neonicotinoids for outdoor residential use, and provides that the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Board of Pesticides Control shall prohibit the use of any product containing the active ingredient dinotefuran, clothianidin, imidacloprid or thiamethoxam used for application in outdoor residential landscapes such as on lawn, turf or ornamental vegetation, provides exceptions, relates to certified applicators.
- Maryland (SB 198/HB 211 – 2016): Prohibits a person from selling a neonicotinoid pesticide unless the person also sells a restricted use pesticide and also does not allow for neonicotinoid pesticide use on or after a certain date unless certified otherwise.
- Maryland (HB 1353- 2019): Authorizes the secretary of agriculture to implement a program to use a certain pesticide to control or eliminate nuisance insects in the state, and specifies that “nuisance insects” does not include pollinators.
- Nebraska (LB 320- 2019): Amends the Nebraska Pesticide Act, including changing provisions related to registration requirements, labeling and application of pesticides.
- New Jersey (SB 1016 – 2022): Classifies neonicotinoids as a restricted use pesticide that the Department of Environmental Protection determines will cause harm to pollinators.
- Rhode Island (SB 2299 – 2022): Provides that all pesticides registered in the state that contain one or more neonicotinoids and are labelled as approved for outdoor use are hereby immediately classified as state limited use pesticide, provides for restrictions on such pesticides, which include that such pesticides shall not be sold or distributed to any person other than a certified applicator or used or applied by any person other than a certified applicator or any person working under the direct supervision of a certified applicator.
- Vermont (H 205 -2020): Regulates the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides, requires the secretary of agriculture, food and markets to register as a restricted use pesticide any neonicotinoid pesticide labeled as approved for outdoor use that is distributed, sold, or offered for sale in the state, and provides for exemptions.
- Vermont (H 626 – 2022): Places limits on the use of neonicotinoids. The secretary of Agriculture, Food and Markets shall establish pollinator health benchmarks, including: (1) presence of pesticides in hives; (2) mite pressure; (3) disease pressure; (4) mite control methods; (5) genetic influence on survival; (6) winter survival rate; and (7) forage availability.
Bees, insects and other creatures pollinate a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, yet many areas lack the habitat necessary to support them. By prioritizing native plants, encouraging biodiversity, and reestablishing pollinator friendly plant populations, states can support pollinator health and population numbers. At least 13 states—California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Vermont and Washington—have enacted legislation to protect, develop and restore habitat suitable for pollinators.
Examples of enacted legislation:
- California (SB 170- 2022): Allocates funds for the existing Pollinator Protection Program aimed to benefit native biodiversity and the use of locally appropriate native plant seed mixes.
- Illinois (HB 3092 – 2019): Creates the Native Prairie and Forage Preference Act and provides that state agencies should give preference to using native plants benefiting pollinators.
- Maryland (HB 322 – 2021): Prohibits a certain restriction on use from imposing unreasonable limitations on low-impact landscaping such as rain gardens, pollinator gardens and xeriscaping; provides that “unreasonable limitations” includes items that increase the cost and efficiency of the low-impact program.
- Massachusetts (HB 5060 – 2022): Mandates pollinator friendly wind and solar farms.
- Minnesota (SB 20 – 2021): Makes appropriations for pollinator conservation through habitat improvement and restoration, research, grants for pollinator-friendly lawns, and education.
- Minnesota (H 3765 – 2022): Makes appropriations to establish new populations of flowers that are essential for pollinator health.
- New Jersey (A 4554 -2021): Establishes standards for the use of pollinator friendly native plant species and seed mixes in grid supply solar.
- New Jersey (SB 3539 -2022): Directs the Department of Environmental Protection to establish a grant program to support the development and maintenance of pollinator friendly community gardens in the State that will help support ’populations of pollinating animals.
- New York (SB 2044- 2019): Makes available information on minimum guidelines for vegetation management plans that are pollinator friendly.
- North Carolina (SB 606- 2019): Prioritizes the use of native plants on highway rights-of-way.
- Ohio (HB 26 – 2017): Directs contributions from transportation and public safety to the Beekeeper’s Association for the protection and preservation of Ohio’s monarch butterfly and pollinator corridor.
- Vermont (HB 205- 2019): Regulates the sale and application of neonicotinoid pesticides in order to protect pollinators, and requires the secretary of agriculture, food and markets to register neonicotinoids as restricted use pesticides.
- Washington (HB 2478 – 2016): Requires all agencies to give preference, when appropriate, to replacing pollen-rich or nectar-rich noxious weeds with native forage plants that are beneficial for all pollinators, including honey bees.
- Washington (SB 5552- 2019): Provides for the development and maintenance of habitat beneficial for the feeding, nesting, and reproduction of pollinators.
Honey bees are managed and used to pollinate over 100 crops grown commercially in the United States. While many hobbyist beekeepers manage bee colonies, commercial beekeepers provide the majority of pollination services to the agriculture sector. At least 11 states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia and Washington—have enacted legislation in recent years to support and regulate beekeepers (also called apiarists) and the beekeeping industry.
Examples of enacted legislation:
- California (AB 450- 2019): Makes changes to provisions on relocating apiaries, imposing a 72-hour deadline to provide notice of relocation of an apiary within a county.
- Delaware (HB 195- 2019): Updates the state’s beekeeping code and specifies that individuals keeping bees in the state must annually register their colonies before Jan. 30 of each year.
- Hawaii (SB 482 – 2013): Exempts home-based agricultural producers of honey from processing honey in certified houses and obtaining a permit from the Department of Health. The law is intended to encourage small beekeeping operations by minimizing administrative requirements that make it more difficult to operate.
- Idaho (SB 1266 – 2014): Exempts honey producers who bring their hives into the state for indoor winter storage purposes from paying certain fees and taxes.
- Iowa (HB 2371 – 2018): Exempts the state and municipalities from liability for claims involving honey bees on public property.
- Montana (HB 443- 2019): Revises requirements for hobbyist apiaries, specifically regarding site registration fees.
- Oregon (HB 2653 – 2015): Requires Oregon State University Extension Service, in consultation with state Department of Agriculture and beekeeping organizations, to establish best practices for beekeeping within residential areas.
- Vermont (HB 656-2020): Requires the owners of any bees, hive, colony or apiary to notice the Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets when varroa mites, pests or designated diseases are detected.
- Virginia (HB 1331 – 2008): Directs the commissioner of agriculture and consumer services to develop and administer a beekeeper assistance program designed to help Virginia beekeepers maintain healthy, productive colonies.
- Washington (SB 6057 – 2015): Extends tax exemptions provided to agricultural products and farmers to apiarists and honey bee products.
- Washington (HB 1133- 2019): Limits liability for civil damages for registered apiarists.
Raising awareness about threats to pollinator habitat can support policies and funding opportunities to address pollinator health. At least 18 states—Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia—have enacted legislation to increase public awareness of the importance of pollinators. Official state designations, specialty license plates, task forces and advisory boards, and education programs all contribute to this goal.
Examples of enacted legislation:
- Arizona (HB 2437- 2022): Create special beekeeper license plates, with revenues assisting in awareness campaigns.
- California (ACR 60 – 2021): Proclaims the month of April as BeeWhere Month.
- Georgia (HB 671 – 2018): Uses funds from the sales of special license plate decals to garner public awareness about the importance of conserving the honey bee and for other associated programs such as beekeeping research facilities.
- New Mexico (SB 234- 2019): Creates a license plate for pollinator protection. Fees collected from pollinator license plate purchases fund pollinator protection activities including educational activities and planting roadside vegetation.
- New York (SB 5492 – 2017): Implements a fiscal plan that includes efforts to support pollinator diversity, pollinator habits, prevent and recover pollinator losses, and outreach education.
- Oregon (HB 3362 – 2015): Establishes the pollinator health outreach and education plan to inform the public about the best practices for avoiding adverse effects from pesticides on populations of bees and other pollinating insects.
- Oregon (HB 2531 – 2021): Adds the departments of Forestry, Transportation and Fish and Wildlife as consulting agencies for state pollinator health outreach and education plan.
- Pennsylvania (HR 385- 2019): Designates the week of June 17-23, 2019, as pollinator week.
- Texas (HR 65 – 2015): Designates the western honey bee as the official state pollinator.
- Utah (HB 224 – 2021): Creates a three-year pilot program to assist in public education awareness and campaigns, distribute pollinator-friendly native flowering plants or seeds and conduct pollinator program.
- Virginia (HB 1331 – 2008): Establishes the Plant Pollination Advisory Board and tasks members with encouraging research, education and promotion of beekeeping and pollination.
- Virginia (HJR 95- 2019): Designates the last full week of June as Pollinator Awareness Week.
- Washington (SB 5253 – 2021): Establishes a pollinator task force through 2024, staffed by members selected by the Department of Health. The task force shall provide recommendations to prioritize and enact policy changes for pollinators in Washington.
- West Virginia (HB 2846- 2019): Designates a beekeeper pollinator license plate.