The report, Gardeners Beware: 2014 Bee-Toxic Pesticides Found in “Bee-Friendly” Plants, studied 71 plants from 18 Lowe’s, Walmart and Home Depot stores across the United States and Canada. All of these plants – including daisies, lavender, marigolds, asters and primrose – are marketed as “bee-friendly.” Yet 51 percent of them were found to contain neonicotinoid pesticides, a substance linked to the collapse of bee colonies.
The plants contained neonicotinoid residue at levels between two and 748 parts per billion. Ecotoxicologist Vera Krischik of the University of Minnesota says that a honeybee can be killed by a dose of 192 parts per billion, but many studies link impairments in the insect’s navigation, memory and foraging skills to doses between four and 30 parts per billion.
Neonic toxins affect other pollinators as well, which play a vital role in agriculture. But the real problem is that gardeners are inadvertently poisoning honeybees and butterflies when they’re actually trying to help them.
“That’s what we’re concerned about,” says Tim Brown, a chemist at the Pesticide Research Institute. “People are being encouraged to help the bees out, and unfortunately what we found is that sometimes these flowers are contaminated at pretty high levels.”
The Gardeners Beware report hopes to raise awareness to gardeners across the country, but the problem won’t end until big box stores cease selling contaminated plants. One Minnesota-based retailer, Bachmann’s, has stopped selling neonicotinoid products in all 21 of its stores.
Congress is currently considering the issue with the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which would halt agricultural and landscape neonicotinoid use until the EPA has reviewed the pesticide’s affects.
Download the full report here.