U.S. environmental regulators on Thursday proposed a rule that would create temporary pesticide-free zones to protect commercial honeybees, which are critical to food production and have been dying off at alarming rates.

The restrictions would cover times when specific plants are in bloom and when commercial honeybees are being moved through certain areas, EPA officials said.

Honeybees are needed to pollinate plants that produce a quarter of the food consumed by Americans, and beekeepers travel around the country with managed hives to help the process.

The rule, due to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, includes a class of insecticides knowns as neonicotinoids, which some have blamed for the demise of honeybee colonies.

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