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City may ban some nicotine based insect killers

Published: Sep. 24, 2014 at 11:11 PM MST|Updated: Oct. 8, 2014 at 11:20 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson city leaders may be asked to ban nicotine based insecticides which some believe may be killing bees.

Many products used on plants and flowers are called neonicotenoids or neonics for short.

They are very effective at eradicating bugs which eat plants or flowers but they may also be harmful to bee populations.

"If the bees go, then a lot of our saguaros and cacti will not get pollinated," says Irene Ogata, of the city of Tucson's Integrated Planning Department. "And even our wildflowers and food sources."

The Landscape Advisory Committee, which is asking for the ban, took it before the Tucson Parks and Recreation Commission, asking it for support.

The commission vote unanimously to offer support but also that it could alter that support sometime in the future if the research doesn't pan out.

Part of the reason for reticence is the Parks Department doesn't use nicotine based pesticides and has no plans to do so in the future.

But it thought it could "set the tone of supporting a certain action and being vigilant," says commission chair Caroline Grey-Ganz

That tone would be educating the public to pay attention.

"We're just kind of looking to see if it may be at least wise to be cautious, examining whether neonics should be on our radar," Ogata says.

If a ban is passed by the council, it will, at least initially, be confined to city property only.

"Not commercial property, not residential property," Ogata says. "Just on city property first."

Even though the city doesn't use nicotine based pesticides and won't if the ban is approved, it will be interesting, at least according to some commission members whether others will follow suit, like the county or Oro Valley.

There are two meetings in October where the issue will be discussed, so it is gathering steam.There's no word when it will fall into the hands of the Mayor and Council.

Several members of the Landscape Advisory Committee say they are still in the information gathering stage but will be meeting with council members in the coming days.

Others said it is still premature to say definitively that it will ask for a ban but most of the members we talked with are inclined to believe the ban will move forward.

Many brands we looked at today don't have a full list of ingredients and others, while admitting the product will kill bees, made it difficult to find the information.

There has been an unexplained death of bee colonies in recent years and some research points to nicotine based insect killers but that has not been totally accepted.

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