How important are honeybees? If they were to disappear, so would crops like almonds, cotton, broccoli and apples. Without honeybees, most of the plants that count on insects for cross-pollination would disappear, and the world’s food supply would be severely compromised. One out of every three bites humans take are of plants that were pollinated by bees.

For years now, the honeybee population has been in decline from the effects of colony collapse disorder. Recently, the disorder that causes mass deaths of honeybees was linked to insecticides known collectively as neonicotinoids. When sprayed on plants, insecticides leave neonicotinoids in the residue, meaning the nectar and pollen of the plant also contain the chemicals, which affect the nervous system of insects. In bees, that doesn't necessarily mean death, but it can mean an inability to forage properly or a loss of sense of direction.

The city of Portland, Oregon, has decided that honeybees are important enough to ban the use of any insecticide containing neonicotinoids, effective immediately. The Portland City Commission voted unanimously to halt neonicotinoids use on any city lands, but the ban does not include private property.

In addition to banning insecticide use on city lands, the ordinance also urges, but does not require, that retailers label products that may contain neonicotinoids.

Portland is not the first city to ban this type of insecticide. A handful of other cities have banned it including Seattle and Eugene, and the European Union restricted the use of some neonicotinoids in 2013.

Related on MNN:

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.