Even Garden Centers Sell Bee-Killing Plants, EPA Tries to Assuage with New Label

After refusing to outlaw pesticides that research strongly correlates with Colony Collapse Disorder in bees, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would require new pesticide labels instead.

"In an ongoing effort to protect bees and other pollinators," they say, EPA’s new pesticide labels "will prohibit use of some neonicotinoid pesticide products where bees are present."

The labels have a "bee advisory box" that describes how bees are exposed to pesticides and urges precaution. It will appear on products that contain these neonicotinoids: imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin and thiamethoxam.

Bee Label

EPA says it won’t ban the pesticides – as Europe has done – because there are a "complex set of factors" negatively impacting bees. 

EPA says it is working with beekeepers, growers, pesticide applicators, pesticide and seed companies, and federal and state agencies to reduce pesticide drift dust and advance best management practices. It recently released new enforcement guidance to federal, state and tribal enforcement officials to enhance investigations of beekill incidents.

The EPA is being sued for failure to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides.  A third of bee populations in the US have disappeared since 2006.

Backyard Gardeners Not Exempt

Meanwhile, people who purchase plants to provide nectar for bees in their backyards are in for a surprise. 

Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target and other mass garden centers are selling plants that are pre-treated with the very same pesticides shown to harm and kill bees. And pesticide levels are much higher than used on farms, says Friends of Earth, who commissioned the study. 

A pilot study finds that seven out of 13 samples of plants sold at these stores contain neonicotinoids. Researchers sampled plants in Washington DC, the San Francisco Bay Area and Minneapolis. 

"Our investigation is the first to show that so called ‘bee-friendly’ garden plants contain pesticides that can poison bees, with no warning to gardeners," says Lisa Archer, director of the Food and Technology Program at Friends of the Earth.

Neonics are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world. And they go far beyond harming honey bees – they have been shown to kill beneficial insects, such as wild bees, bats, butterflies, dragonflies, lacewings, and ladybugs, birds, earthworms, mammals, amphibians, and aquatic insects, says the report.

"Unfortunately, these pesticides don’t break down quickly – they remain in the plants and the soil and can continue to affect pollinators for months to years after treatment," explains researcher Timothy Brown of the Pesticide Research Institute, which co-authored the study.

"And even at doses that don’t kill bees, neonics weaken bee immune systems and impair critical brain functions, making it hard for bees to find their food sources and return to the hive," notes Emily Marquez, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network.

Unfortunately, the only way home gardeners can be sure to avoid this problem is to buy organically grown plants or start them from seeds. It’s likely that many nurseries aren’t aware that their plants have been treated.

Last month, U.S. Representatives Blumenauer (D-OR) and Conyers (D-MI) introduced the Save American’s Pollinators Act, which would put a moratorium on the use of neonics on bee-attractive plants until EPA reviews all of the available data, including field studies.

Blumenauer introduced the bill after the impact of neonics became clear: 50,000 bumblebees died in a Target parking lot Oregon after a neonic pesticide was applied to nearby trees. Last month, 37 million honeybees died on an Ontario farm from the dust associated with planting treated corn seeds.

Friends of the Earth has a BeeAction campaign.

Here is the research report that found the pesticides on plants sold at garden centers:

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Comments on “Even Garden Centers Sell Bee-Killing Plants, EPA Tries to Assuage with New Label”

  1. Charlie

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me. How we can knowingly allow destruction of such an important part of our ecosystem is wa-a-a-ay beyond my comprhension…but then I’m not trying to own the world’s food supply or any other such nonsense, so what do I know? I’m just sayin’…

  2. bertie cookingham

    the nurseries selling these “bee friendly” plants
    to co.s such as home depot and lowes KNOW exactly what they’re doing…….how can such evil exist
    now that it has been exposed….stop them dead in their tracts


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