It starts out innocently enough. You go into one of the big box stores to buy something, let’s say lightbulbs. While you are there, you wander through the nursery department and some plants catch your eye. You buy them and bring them home. I know. I’ve done it too. But, in the process, we may have been unknowingly poisoning our pollinators with neonicotinoids.
Thanks to the work of Friends of the Earth and their report, Gardener’s Beware (June 2014), we know that many of the plants sold from major retailers and nurseries, such as Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and Home Depot, contained neonicotinoids. These are a class of pesticides harmful to all pollinators, including honey bees. Organized groups applied some customer pressure, asking stores to stop using the pesticides. Many companies pledged to reverse their neonicotinoid policy. Great. But change can be slow. Here are the promises made in 2014. How did your favorite store do?
Lowe’s will phase out the sale of products that contain neonic pesticides by the spring of 2019 as suitable alternatives become commercially available.
Home Depot committed to cut neonicotinoid use by the end of 2014. When neonics are used after this date, the company has promised a label in the pot. Online comments concern me, where people complained about finding a neonicotinoid label tucked inside the pot bought at Home Depot–out of view until they took the plant out of the pot.
Ace Hardware has said they are willing to move away from the sale of products containing neonicotinoids by the spring of 2019.
True Value committed in 2015 to phase out neonics in the next three years.
BJ’s Wholesale Club asked vendors to not use neonicotinoids by the end of 2014. If their vendors are still using the pesticides, the plants need to be labeled.
The bottom line is that if you are buying plants from these stores, for the next few years, you may buy a plant with the bee-killing neonicotinoid on it. It seems cruel to buy a pollinator-friendly plant, and then lace it with a bug-killing pesticide. No thanks, I don’t want to take the chance. Nor as a consumer do I want to play their label reading game. The bees don’t have a lot of time. I will seek nurseries that do not use neonics and buy organic products.
“Even though Home Depot has taken these steps in the right direction, it’s important for gardeners to be aware that many plants in stores today still contain neonicotinoids. We look forward to the day when we can all buy home garden plants without worrying about harming pollinators. In the meantime, gardeners should choose organic and neonic-free starts, seeds and soil,” said Katherine Paul, associate director, Organic Consumers Association.
Well said. Here is a list of nurseries nationwide that have pledged to cut or not use these pesticides. I’m sure there are others. Ask your favorite nurseries whether they have neonic pesticides on their plants. And remember, as a consumer, you have tremendous power.
Photo credit: Trey Pitsenberger https://www.flickr.com/photos/thebloggingnurseryman/