Science Says

Is Your Local Garden Center Taking Action on Neonicotinoids?

Janet Castleford13 comments2689 views
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What’s killing the bees?  The pesticide neonicotinoid, for one thing, and it’s routinely used on plants for sale and earlier in the plants’ lives, at the wholesale growers’.  That discovery has led to an anti-neonic campaign targeting the boxes in particular, leading to headlines like “Bee  Activists Swarm Home Depot and Lowes.”

Though the impact of HD and Lowes changing their ways would be huge, bee-lovers aren’t holding their breath waiting for them to take action.  Groups like Friends of the Earth  aimed more locally and approached the beloved family-owned Behnkes Nurseries about the problem, and got results.  Behnkes president Alfred Millard announced changes the company is making on their website:  stopping the sale of neonics, not using them on the plants it sells, and giving preference to growers who don’t use the pesticide.  (Full disclosure, I’ve been a Behnkes customer for decades and now blog for them.)

It’s too soon to know the effect this move will have on the company’s bottom line, but immediately upon the announcement local writer Alison Gillespie wrote “Behnkes to Avoid Neonicotinoids!

I would like to officially salute Behnke’s Nurseries in Maryland for making a bold statement on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.  ….I am tremendously proud of this local nursery and so very appreciative that they are making an effort to give gardeners in the DC Metro area a place to find plants that are truly pollinator-friendly.

And later, in bold:

I would love to see statements like this from other nurseries.  I would gladly publicize them on this blog.

So garden shoppers and especially shoppers who blog or use social media, how about suggesting to your favorite garden center that they take action on this bee-killing pesticide and promising that if they do, you’ll shout about it from your digital rooftop?

Karen Coppens, Evelyn Hadden, Larry Hurley, Becky Beaver and Alfred Millard

Here’s the Rant’s own Evelyn with Behnkes perennial department folks and president Alfred Millard.

Posted by

Susan Harris
on June 9, 2014 at 7:06 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet, Taking Your Gardening Dollar.


  1. The Wu studies are fundamentally flawed and have been heavily criticized by entymologists studying CCD because the dose of imidicloprid used in the studies are not field realistic but 10x field realistic dosages. The biggest danger from neonics is not the low dosage from pollen and nectar but improperly applied seed coat treatment.

  2. Thanks for pointing this out. I am all for saving the bees, in fact I can’t think of anyone who actively wants to kill them, but I also can’t stand misinformation, flawed studies that get used as reference and media sound bites that fuel conflict instead of resolution.

  3. The study highlighted by FOE acknowledges the difference between field applied and plant applied neonics because that is exactly how the insecticide is actually used by garden suppliers and nurseries. The concentrations are more heavily applied in garden plants. The study also advises these neonics leach into the soil and contaminate any other plants in the soil. The EPA has allowed this poison on a temporary basis – for years – showing us how infiltrated our government agencies are with industry appointees. We/our planet cannot survive if bee, insects and the part of the food chain that ingests them, dies. It’s not about a beautiful poison free garden anymore, it’s about survival and sustainability of our plants, for your children and grandchildren and I for one am having no more of business as usual.

  4. The Xerces overview is a pretty good one. The number one takeaway being that residential application rates on the lavels are too high and should be brouht down to agricultural rates as it specifically states that agricutural rates are extremely unlikely to cause acute harm. The long term effects of subleathal doses are not yet clear. They also specifically state that CCD is a complex syndrome with a variety of synergistic causes. This is accurate and the accepted understanding of CCD. It is not believed that simply getting rid of neonics will solve the problem. There are millions of bees that get exposed to neonics that don’t collapse. The flourishing of urban bees in some areas has to be resolved with the residential use of neonics.

  5. Agree with you about the report, and especially those residential figures! Another big takeaway for me was the recorded persistence in soils. That always gets me worried about long-term cumulative and synergistic effects.

  6. I don’t know what the retail nurseries are like where there are actual winters, except for the high prices. I about died many years ago when I was back in Ohio and my mother wanted help planting some window boxes and I saw the prices. Being able to sell plants all year long does have its advantages. However, the quality of the plant stock in our retail nurseries can be absolutely terrible compared to bbs stock. The bbs stock isn’t great either, but they at least have enough turnover that plants don’t sit in the same pots for years getting more and more root bound. The independents generally take better care of annuals but not always. I don’t know any that I would buy a big shrub or tree from. Instead of pulling market share by preying on the fears of customers, I would like to see them supply higher quality plant stock.

  7. I’m glad you talked about persistence in the soil, Evelyn, because that is another head of this hydra.
    My issue is why use them at all? I have alot of sympathy and empathy for ag workers, nursery workers, and the hort industry at large – this IS a business, of course, but finding better ways to do things that don’t risk undermining our population of beneficial insects and pollinators has to be a good thing for everyone. Neonicotinoids are disruptors of the central nervous system – it is how it works as an insecticide. I simply don’t think we need to be taking chances with our environment when the same ends can be achieved by other, safer means. A change in policy will benefit everybody in the end, I believe, and I am so thrilled that businesses are starting to change policies for the better!

  8. Skr, what corporation have you been hired by to tamp down discussions on websites bringing this issue to light and discussing it? Folks, the “cynic in me” has seen this same posting on multiple sites and I find it highly suspicious. I cannot imagine the chemical business producing these poisons are too thrilled about losing billions of dollars if they have to take this off the market. They really don’t care about the harm it does, just that the public will know about it and decry it’s use. Scientists have been pointing to neonics for years but their funding is always threatened if they are too vocal and don’t use caveats like “the science it there yet” or “we don’t think the threat is as great as some have suggested.” It’s time for a change in business and this is an important place to start!

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