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Local girl inspires passage of ‘Bee Bill’ in Illinois

This week is National Pollinator Week and State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-18th) joined State Sen. Laura Fine (D-9th); Mark Clifton, the executive director of the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District; volunteers from the Clark Street Beach Bird Sanctuary, and the 12-year old star of the afternoon event: Scarlett Harper, a rising eighth-grader at the Carleton Washburne School in Winnetka.

State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-18th) reads a letter from Gov. JB Pritzker to Scarlett Harper of Winnetka regarding the passage of the “Bee Bill” that Scarlett was instrumental in creating. Credit: Photo by Wendi Kromash

The group gathered in Evanston recently to celebrate the passage of Illinois House Bill 3118, affectionately known as “The Bee Bill,” which amends the Environmental Protection Act. It restricts the use of “pyrethroid” pesticides and says that they can only be applied “ if an evidence-based model of application complying with specified requirements is used.”

The law also requires that the EPA make rules for licensing commercial applicators of such pesticides in residential areas. It also says the EPA can make any necessary rules to implement the new law.

Gabel and Fine sponsored the legislation and shepherded it through the two-year-long legislative process, but the inspiration came from Scarlett.

A couple of years ago, she said, she noticed that her family’s garden was no longer buzzing with bees. A nature lover and burgeoning environmentalist, she said she previously had been able to count “at least seven different species of bees,” but recently she hadn’t been able to count even seven bees in total.

Scarlett said she did some research and found a link between pesticides and bee population decline. Groups as diverse as the US Department of Agriculture, the National Wildlife Federation and the Journal of Economic Entomology all say that some pyrethroid pesticides are toxic to honeybees.

Scarlett said there is a ripple effect from each action, even if the effect is unintended.
“Bees pollinate crops, which also feed livestock,” Scarlett said. “One-third of our food supply is dependent on them.”

She also said that due to the treatments’ overuse, “mosquitoes are becoming resistant to the pesticides.”


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