Gardeners May Be Unknowingly Harming Bees

Submitted by dpeacock on June 25, 2014
FOE-GardenersBeware2014As we transition into summer, gardeners are relishing in the explosion of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and other beautiful plants on the land. Gardeners and farmers recognize that pollinators, such as bees, are essential for growing fruits and vegetables and add plants that are supposed to attract bees. However, what many of us do not know is that many of the “bee-friendly” plants sold at many garden stores contain pesticides that actually harm and kill bees. GMO Inside ally, Friends of the Earth, released a report today about their study showing that over half of the garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers (Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart) in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contained pesticides called neonicotinoids. More and more evidence is indicting these pesticides as one of the causes for bee colony collapse disorder. All of the samples where neonicotinoids were detected could cause sub-lethal effects (on immunity, memory, reproduction) and death in bees. Forty percent of the positive samples contained two or more neonicotinoids, and some samples contained very high levels in excess of the lethal dose for honey bees. Also concerning is none of the plants had labels stating they contained pesticides. Therefore, people who are trying to decorate their yards, enjoy nature, help the bees, and increase pollinators might actually be unknowingly harming bees. While “bees” often annoy us at cookouts buzzing around our food and offering a sting, we must realize those are usually not even honey bees but are yellow jackets or wasps. Honey bees are relatively docile and are extremely important to our food supply. Bees and other pollinators are essential for two-thirds of the food crops humans eat everyday such as almonds, squash, cucumbers, apples, oranges, blueberries, and peaches. One out of every three bites of food we eat is pollinated by honey bees. producewithandwithoutbees Beekeepers have lost an average of 30% of their hives in recent years, with some beekeepers losing all of their hives and many leaving the industry. Farmers are unable to meet their pollination needs for popular crops such as almonds and berries. Neonicotinoids are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world (manufactured by Bayer and Syngenta) and are increasingly implicated for bee deaths. These insecticides can kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens, and other stressors while impairing their foraging and feeding abilities, reproduction, and memory. Neonicotinoids are widely used in the US on 140 crops and for cosmetic use in gardens. They can last in soil, water, and the environment for months to years to come. The European Union realizes the importance of bees and the danger of neonicotinoids and has put a two-year suspension on the most widely used neonicotinoids in an effort to protect bees. A majority of the UK’s largest garden retailers have already voluntarily stopped selling neonicotinoids. Here in the US, at least 10 nurseries, landscaping companies, and retailers are taking steps to eliminate bee-harming pesticides from their garden plants and their stores. More than half a million people have signed petitions demanding that Lowe’s and Home Depot to stop selling neonicotinoids. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has received more than a million public comments urging swift protections for bees. US Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D, Ore.) and John Conyers (D, Mich.) introduced the “Saving America’s Pollinators Act” to suspend the use of neonicotinoids until the EPA reviews all of the available data. It has 65 cosponsors and is a bi-partisan bill.

Take Action

You can help the bees and our food.
  • Demand that Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other retailers stop selling pesticides and plants pre-treated with pesticides that are poisoning bees.
  • Urge Congress and EPA to act to protect bees.
  • Buy organic or from farms using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) since organic farming supports 50% more pollinator species than conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture.
  • Start plants from seeds that are open-pollinated, have not been treated with pesticides, or choose organic plants for your garden. Get bee-friendly gardening tips at and
  • Avoid the use of systemic bee-toxic pesticides in your garden by using alternative approaches such as providing habitat to attract beneficial insects that prey on pest insects in your garden. If pest pressure is too high, you can use insecticidal soaps or oils and other eco-friendly pest-control products. Get more tips and resources at and

More from the Blog