Bill would effectively ban retail sale and unlicensed use of neonicotinoid pesticides in Nevada, a known killer of pollinator species

Audio: montage of voices from the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources hearing of AB275

The face of a common form of "sweat bee" from White Pine County, Nevada - photo: Sam Droege, licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Neonicotinoid or “neonic” insecticides as they are known include several active ingredients dangerous to bees and other pollinator species.

Acetamiprid, Clothianidin, Dinotefuran, Imidacloprid, and Thiamethoxam.

Depending on the product, these chemicals can be combined in numerous ways from seed dressings to sprays. The various preparations are used to control pests in five major crops, household gardens, and lawns.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must approve and register any pesticide sold or otherwise distributed in the United States. The EPA registered the first neonic in 1994 with Imidacloprid. The others listed above were subsequently registered, and they all remain legal under federal law. Registrations are reviewed on a 15-year cycle. 

The Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) must also approve and register any pesticide before it can be used, distributed, or sold in the state. According to the NDA, “this includes agricultural, industrial, and homeowner products such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, disinfectant, rodenticides, and any other product intended to kill, repel, or mitigate a pest.”

In Nevada, neonics are legally sold without restrictions in a wide variety of products from ant traps to flowering plant pesticides.

Assembly Bill 275 would, if made state law, designate neonicotinoid pesticides as restricted-use pesticides under the Nevada Pesticides Act. That means those products have been formally noted to have the potential to cause injury to humans or the environment unless applied by a certified and capable applicator. The NDA administers the training and certification program. 

To designate neonics as restricted-use pesticides would take them off the shelves of Home Depot, Loews and all retail outlets. Only licensed individuals could use them, so open retail sales would be prohibited.

Listen: hear an audio montage of voices from the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources from the March 30 hearing of AB275.

See music credits below.

Between 1947 and 2008, the nation’s honey bee population dropped 61 percent from nearly 6 million to 2.3 million bees. 2010 marked a 44 percent loss of bee populations, and in 2019, bee populations dropped nearly 36 percent.

In April of 2016, Ortho, one of the nation’s leading brands of insect control products for lawn and garden use, announced that it would begin to transition away from the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides for outdoor applications. Scotts Miracle-Gro owns Ortho and is the exclusive marketer of the herbicide Roundup. The company said it would eliminate the use of neonic active ingredients Imidacloprid, Clothianidin and Dinotefuran by 2017.

Since then, the company has expanded its selection of “non-neonic based garden solutions,” and on the Ortho website there is the “Pollinator Promise,” which includes a lengthy acknowledgement of the important role pollinators play in our food chain and their precipitous decline in numbers. The company does ultimately concede that neonics are one among many negative impacts on pollinators.

Reno-based beekeeper Jim Russell shows the inside of a hive in February of 2019 – photo: Brian Bahouth/the Ally

Despite the 2016 goal of eliminating neonics, Ortho has yet to fully remove neonics from its line of pesticides and still offers retail consumers “a choice” in selecting products, according to their website. 

Many products from other manufacturers sold at Lowes, Home Depot and elsewhere currently contain neonics. This product has colorful fruit drawn large on the label, but the fine print shows the active ingredient to be Imidacloprid. There are many others.

For now, totally self-regulated consumers need to check the label to see if a neonic is in the preparation, but if AB275 becomes law, the decision would be easier because an unlicensed Nevada consumer would no longer have the choice.

Music credits as reported through the Public Radio Exchange:

Song: Delirando
Artist: Mexican Institute of Sound
Album: Disco Popular
Label: Soy Sauce
Date: 2020
Duration:1:00

Song: Changeling
Artist: DJ Shadow
Album: Entroducing …
Label: Mo wax
Date: 1996
Duration: 1:12

Song: Atom Dream
Artists: William Orbit
Album: Best of Strange Cargo
Label: IRS
Date: 1996
Duration: 1:13

Song:  Silent Signals
Artists: William Orbit
Album: Best of Strange Cargo
Label: IRS
Date: 1996
Duration: 1:26

Song: Painted Rock
Artists: William Orbit
Album: Best of Strange Cargo
Label: IRS
Date: 1996
Duration: 1:03


Brian Bahouth is a veteran public media producer and writer. Support his work in the Ally.