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How a Burlington beekeeper convinced his neighbors not to use bee-harming pesticides

The queen bee lays fertilized eggs inside the beehive. Worker bees tend to the eggs, which turn into larvae. The brood, as the babies are called, are capped while they grow into bees that then hatch out of the cells.
Jane Lindholm
Vermont Public
Mark Montalban offered free honey to his neighbors if they promised not to plant seeds treated with neonicotinoids.

As Vermont lawmakers debate whether to ban neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides known to harm bees, one beekeeper has been pleading with neighbors to not use them.

“I basically went door to door and asked neighbors not to buy plants treated by that,” said Mark Montalban, who owns Green Acres Homestead in Burlington.

“I even offered free containers of honey.”

Montalban asked neighbors within a 3-mile radius to not use seeds treated with the pesticide, and he said many have been receptive to the request — over 30 have made the switch.

“I basically went door to door and asked neighbors not to buy plants treated by that, and I even offered free containers of honey.”
Mark Montalban, Burlington

Neonicotinoids are illegal in many European countries and Quebec, but in Vermont many seeds, especially corn and soybeans, are coated with the pesticide.

Spencer Hardy, a biologist studying native bees at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, said advocating at the community level can't hurt. 

"It seems like a good way to get some more public outreach going,” he said.

But he says it risks missing the bigger issue. “A lot of the large volume of neonicotinoids are not necessarily being applied at the home level, it's primary agriculture," Hardy said.

For homeowners, Hardy suggests directly asking nurseries if they use neonicotinoids before buying plants.

This story was produced in collaboration between Vermont Public and the Community News Service. The Community News Service is a student-powered partnership between the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program and community newspapers across Vermont.

Kennedy is a freshman at the University of Vermont.

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