On July 1 Clarkston officials debated partnering with Pesticide Action Network and Beyond Pesticides to protect honeybees and other pollinators by becoming a Honey Bee Haven.
Mayor Ted Terry said he saw it fitting to start the initiative after being approached by stakeholders about the epidemic affecting pollinators.
“It revolves around a certain pesticide, the neonicotinoids products that are believed to cause colony class disorder in certain bee populations,” Terry explained.
According to the resolution presented at the council meeting, scientific evidence shows that neonicotinoid insecticides, including clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid are threats to pollinators.
Terry said, “Pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. They’re responsible for over $19 billion worth of services to U.S. agriculture.”
Neonicotinoids are a new class of insecticides chemically related to nicotine. The name literally means new nicotine-like insecticides. Like nicotine, the neonicotinoids act on receptors in the nervous system. They are much more toxic to invertebrates, such as insects, than they are to mammals, birds and other higher organisms.
The insecticide shares a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death.
Terry said, “I ran for office because I wanted to make a greener and more sustainable Clarkston. In our public parks and public areas we don’t use the chemical cocktail neonicotinoids. That’s one of the main criteria for becoming a haven–knowing that those chemicals are linked to causing bee colony collapse disorder.”
He added, “By simply eliminating those chemicals that’s the first step. This is a small thing that we can do locally that is also symbolic to other communities in the Atlanta region, to encourage them to follow suit.”
Although the city of Clarkston does not own or use chemicals with neonicotinoids, Councilman Warren Hadlock said the city does purchase plants with neonicotinoids.
City officials agreed to phase out plants treated with the insecticide.
Hadlock said he fully supports the resolution, “but let’s understand that honey bees are by no means the greatest pollinators we have. Honey bees are not native to America, that’s probably one of the reasons that their population is being decimated because they’re not native, and they’re being subjected to stresses that wouldn’t be in their native habitat.”
Current Georgia law states that a city cannot ban private individuals and businesses from using pesticides or herbicides of any class.
Terry said, “But certainly as a city we can decide what we use in our public parks and public rightways.”
“As a city we’re saying that we’re not going to use something that causes environmental harm. We want to encourage residents and business owners to do the same since we’re not compelled to tell them by ordinance or law,” he said.
To become a honey bee haven a municipality must take the pledge and pass a resolution or ordinance to provide healthy environments for bees, including access to clean water and food, provide shelter and eliminate the use of bee-harming pesticides.
Paul Towers, spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network said, “Lacking state and federal leadership, local governments have a responsibility to protect pollinators, especially honey bees. Bees are declining at an alarming rate all across the country and are responsible for one in three bites of food we eat. For years, habitat loss, diseases and lack of healthy food have created stresses for bees. The introduction of new pervasive and persistent pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, has made matters worse, driving the dramatic population declines.”
He added, “Local governments not only have the ability to restrict the use of these pesticides on publicly-owned properties but can also model healthy ways to maintain parks, rights-of-ways, gardens and other spaces that residents can put into practice in their own backyards. The pledge is a public commitment to show leadership for the bees.”
Clarkston’s city council members refused to approve the resolution.
Terry said he’s “Committed to making Clarkston a model for sustainable communities, and resolutions like these coupled with small policy changes can add up to make a real difference in our area.”
He added, “I will continue to push for policies and initiatives that hold our city up as a beacon of innovative and progressive efforts.”
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