Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Are bee-killing pesticides hiding in your garden?

"Bee-friendly" plants may carry hidden dangers. Photo: Andrea_44
by Lynne Walter, Associate Director

I love gardens because they give us a chance to grow beautiful flowers, plants, fruits, and vegetables. Besides providing a relaxing oasis for me, the gardens I love also provide a haven for butterflies and bees.

Unfortunately, new research shows that bee-killing pesticides may be lurking in our gardens - without our knowledge!

Toxic Free NC participated in a recent study of garden plants marked as "bee-attractive" that are sold at top retailers.  We purchased several "bee-attractive" plants from Lowe's and Home Depot stores in Raleigh, NC, to be tested. Colleagues in 17 other cities across the U.S. and Canada did the same.

The report, Gardeners Beware 2014 from our colleagues at Friends of the Earth, shows there is a good chance bee-killing pesticides are lurking in our gardens and backyards.  The report reveals that more than half of the garden plants we tested contain neonic pesticides. Neonics are highly toxic to bees - they can kill bees outright, and also make them more vulnerable to diseases and other stressors.

And these "bee-attractive" plants carry no warning labels for us, the consumers.

So, what can we do?
  • Sign the Petition: Ask garden retailers to stop selling neonicotinoid-treated plants and products that contain neonicotinoids.  

  • Raise Your Voice Locally:  Let your local nursery know you will only purchase neonic-free plants and ask the nursery to communicate your request to their corporate headquarters and supplies who grow the plants they sell.  You can find a sample letter here for U.S. companies.  
  • Grow Bee-Safe: Avoid buying neonicotinoid-treated seeds and seedlings.  Purchase organic plant starts or grow your own plants from untreated seeds in organic potting soil for your home vegetable and flowers gardens.
  • Practice Bee-Safe Pest Control: Avoid using bee-toxic pesticides in your garden and use alternative methods of pest control, such as providing a habitat for beneficial insects that prey on garden pests.  You can find more information at Toxic Free NC's Organic Gardening resource pages.
  • Don't Buy Products that Contain Neonicotinoids: Read the label and avoid using off-the-shelf neonicotinoid pesticides in your garden.  Look for active ingredients like acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran.  You can see the appendix at the end of Gardeners Beware 2014 for a list of common products that contain neonicotinoids.
  • Do a Clean Sweep: Check if you have neonic pesticide products at home, and dispose of them as municipal hazardous waste or take them back to the store where you bought them.

Thank you for taking action to help protect these critical pollinators, and please spread the word!