Study: Pretreated Garden Plants Harming Bees in MN

Updated: 08/15/2013 7:41 AM By: Maricella Miranda

Photo: MGN Online
Photo: MGN Online

Some home garden plants being sold at Home Depot, Lowe's and other garden centers are harmful to bees because of pretreated pesticides, according to a new study.

The pilot study, co-authored by the Pesticide Research Institute, reportedly found that seven of 13 samples of garden plants bought at stores in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Bay area and Minneapolis contained neurotoxic pesticides - which could harm or kill bees.

The results were released Wednesday, Aug. 14, nationwide.

"Our investigation is the first to show that so called 'bee-friendly' garden plants contain pesticides that can poison bees, with no warning to gardeners," said Lisa Archer, director of the Food and Technology Program at Friends of the Earth-US, according to a statement.

"Bees are essential to our food system and they are dying at alarming rates," she added in the statement. "Neonic pesticides are a key part of the problem we can start to fix right now in our own backyards."

On Wednesday, the groups Friends of the Earth, Sum of Us and others sent letters and petitions - signed by more than 175,000 people - to Lowe's, Home Depot, Target and other retailers, asking the stores to stop selling neonicotinoids and plants pretreated with the pesticides.

Officials from Atlanta-based Home Depot have yet to review the study, said Stephen Holmes, company spokesman. "... But we certainly appreciate the importance of the bee population and will be reaching out to the study groups to learn more about their findings and methodology."

Messages for Lowe's seeking comment were not returned Wednesday.

University of Minnesota experts also spoke about the study's results.

"This is an extremely important study," said Marla Spivak, an entomology professor at the U, specializing in apiculture and social insects. "Our bee pollinators need uncontaminated flowers for good nutrition and health. Everyone should take notice and support this critical cause."

These studies and similar efforts will help protect honey bees, wild bees, monarchs and many other beneficial insects, including natural enemies that control insect pests, Spivak said.

Most large garden retailers in the United Kingdom have already stopped selling neonics, according to the groups. In addition to retailers, the groups are pushing for the U.S. federal government to restrict the use of neonics.

The U.S. campaign can be found here.

Neonics, which are used for cosmetic purposes, are the most widely used class of insecticides in the world, according to the groups. Bees are exposed through multiple routes - including common garden plants.