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Gov. Dayton orders MN to protect the bees (you can help too)

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Gov. Mark Dayton has been busy preparing a plan to save the bees.

He was at the Minnesota State Fair's Power of Pollinators exhibit Friday morning to announce his latest executive order in an effort to reverse the decline of bees.

Bees are considered to be the most efficient and important pollinators for Minnesota's crops, according to his executive order, with the estimated value of honeybee pollination in food production totaling $17 billion.

But bee populations have been on the decline for the past decade, and this could hurt both the state's environment and economy.

Here's what Dayton's order is asking for:

  • TheDepartment of Agriculture must: verify that neonicotinoid pesticides are only used in instances to prevent significant crop loss; review, restrict and enforce pesticide product labels; and develop and promote better management practices to protect pollinators' health.
  •  The Environmental Quality Board must: create an Interagency Pollinator Protection Team; work to minimize pesticide us; maximize restoration; and better manage the pollinator habitat on their agency's land.
  • The Board of Water and Soil Resources must: incorporate pollinator protection into existing wetland protection and restoration, agricultural conservation practices and urban water quality programs.
  • The state Department of Transportation must restore, protect and enhance pollinator habitats on state-owned transportation properties.

The governor is also planning to establish his own 15 member Pollinator Protection Committee to advise him and state agencies.

Lastly, Dayton asked the the state Department of Administration to protect pollinators by leading by example. The agency will purchase products and plants for public property that reflect environmentally friendly business practices, Administration Commissioner Matt Massman said in the release.

According to the Star Tribune, "Dayton’s announcement follows a monthslong review of neonicotinoids by the Department of Agriculture that was spurred by concern among beekeepers, legislators and conservationists." You can read the review here.

Last February, the Department of Agriculture hosted a Pollinators Summit to discuss the challenges and potential solutions to save the bees. A summary of those outcomes can be read here.

However, not everyone is on board with Dayton's plan. The Minnesota Soybean Growers Association says limiting the use of nicotine-based insecticides presents challenges for farmers harvesting soybeans – the state's top exported crop.

So what's hurting the bees anyway?

Nicotine-based insecticides are damaging to bees' health, according to a recent University of Minnesota study. The link has been known for several years, MPR News reports, but the new study closes some gaps in that knowledge.

The chemicals cause queen bees to become lethargic and lay fewer eggs, while worker bees to do a poor job removing harmful mites from the hive. They also reportedly collected less pollen MPR News says. You can read the full study here.

One of the study's authors, Marla Spivak, wrote the following in response to Dayton's order:

Here's how you can help

"There's a lot more we can do – all of us – more sensibly, with better awareness, to protect the pollinators. And that's the purpose of the executive order," Dayton said at the State Fair Friday, according to a tweet from KARE 11's Melissa Colorado.

One way to help: plant a pollinator-friendly garden. MPR News has a guide on how to do it.

You can also help by drinking beer at the State Fair. Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. is donating up to $5,000 of its proceeds from Honey Weiss sold at the fair to the U of M Bee Lab as part of its "Save the Bees" campaign.

You can also sample that beer between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. each day south of the Leinie Lodge Bandshell.

For more on ways you can help honeybees, click here.

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