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Pesticide-Laden "Big Box" Flowers Kill Bees

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Jul 31, 2014 9:49:00 AM

For those of us who like to eat flowers, we have long been warned to eat only those organically grown. Apparently, the same care should be extended to our insect pollinators. Despite our best intentions, we are inadvertently killing bees and perhaps other creatures that we want to attract.

neonicotinoids kill bees

According to a an article in Wired magazinethe plants we purchase from all the name-brand, big-box garden centers may be killing bees. Makes one wonder about how pesticide laden plants may be affecting the other critters we want in our gardens like butterflies, dragonflies and lightning bugs as well as birds.

A study done by the Pesticide Research Institute and Friends of the Earth surveyed 18 big-box stores located in the U.S. and Canada. Researchers found toxic levels of neonicotinoids “considered highly toxic to bees, butterflies and other insect pollinators.”



Wikipedia defines these as “a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine” that were developed in the 1980s. Purchased for the study were bee-friendly plants including asters, daisies, lavender, marigolds and primrose. For more than half the studied plants, researchers found neonicotinoid residues in the flowers “between two and 748 parts per billion.

Experts say 192 parts per billion kills bees. Even when the poison doesn’t kill, it affects the insects’ navigation and foraging ability and memory and compromises their immune systems.

Mixing contaminated plants with those grown from untreated seeds (because many say that treated seeds grow into pesticide-laden plants), can contaminate the more wholesome bee-friendly plants. Heavy rain can contaminate the soil with pesticide-treated-plant runoff.

Nine states may soon restrict neonicotinoid use, including California and Minnesota. BJ’s Wholesale Club is among the retailers who have pledged to reduce or eliminate their purchase and resale of plants treated with the potent bee killer.

Also check out the Pesticide Research Institute’s (PRI’s) Pesticide Product Evaluator. The online app “uses the LEED-compliant  San Francisco Hazard Ranking system to assign a Hazard Tier ranking to pesticide products. Products are evaluated on the basis of acute and chronic toxicity to humans, wildlife and aquatic life, as well as potential for water contamination.”

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