With delight, we watch bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies, and other pollinators flit from one blossom to the other — this is one of the joys of gardening and a relaxing way to pass a lazy summer day. We may have even made a special effort to include “bee-friendly” plants in our garden, in response to the dwindling bee population, knowing that our food supply is dependent on honeybees and other pollinators. Imagine if those beautiful flowering plants were causing harm to those pollinators. That is what a recent report from Friends of the Earth suggests.
The report claims that commercial nursery plants sold to consumers through garden centers, such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Orchard Supply Hardware, many advertised as “bee-friendly”, contain neonicotinoid pesticide residue. Neonicotinoids are a class of synthetic systemic pesticides — meaning, the pesticide permeates the entire plant from the roots to the leaves, flowers, pollen, and nectar, and persists, possibly lasting for years in soil and plant matter. Neonicotinoids act on the central nervous system and can poison bees directly, resulting in death, or impair learning, navigation, foraging, fertility, and the immune system, leaving bees vulnerable to disease and putting the entire colony at risk. Also at risk are bats, butterflies, dragonflies, lacewings and ladybugs. According to the report, the “bulk of available scientific literature suggests that neonicotinoids are a substantial contributing factor to the decline of pollinator populations.” Since the plants are not labeled as having received pesticide treatment, there is no warning to consumers and “home gardens have likely become a source of exposure for bees.” Of plants sampled, 54% contained the pesticide.
What Can You Do? Friends of the Earth’s Recommendations for the Home Gardener
- Stop using all neonicotinoid insecticides. Read the label — do not buy products that contain neonicotinoids and properly dispose of any you have at home or return them to the store where you purchased them. Look for these active ingredients: acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiacloprid, and thiamethoxam.
- Plant only neonicotinoid-free plants. Better still, purchase and grow organic seeds and/or plants and use organic potting soil.
- Ask landscaping companies that service your grounds to not use neonicotinoids or pre-treated plants.
- Raise your voice locally. Let your local nursery manager know that you will only purchase plants free of neonicotinoids and ask that they communicate your request to their corporate headquarters and suppliers.
- Take action. Send a letter to the CEOs of Home Depot and Lowe’s asking that they stop selling neonicotinoid treated plants and products that contain neonicotinoids. Contact your member of Congress and encourage them to support the Save America’s Pollinators Act.
More information can be found on the Friends of the Earth website: BeeAction.org.