Planting flowers, shrubs, and trees—especially native ones—that provide food for butterflies, bees, wild pollinators, and other wildlife is a wonderful way to beautify your yard and benefit the world around you. But be careful where you shop. Environmental group Friends of the Earth purchased “bee-friendly” plants from three major big-box retailers around the country and had them analyzed at a laboratory. Seven of the 13 plants tested contained neonicotinoids, a type of synthetic insecticide that is poisonous to bees.
Neonicotinoids are especially dangerous to bees and other insects because they are absorbed into plant tissues and distributed to new growth, including pollen collected and eaten by bees. This class of insecticide is known for its persistence in plant tissues and the environment, remaining deadly for months or even years. An increasing amount of evidence links neonicotinoids to the decline of bee populations worldwide.
The best advice: Purchase plants from local growers who don’t use synthetic chemicals—or start your own plants from untreated seeds. Learn more about the Friends of the Earth BeeAction campaign at foe.org/beeaction.
Photograph by Vario Images GMBH & CO.KG
Originally published in Organic Gardening magazine, February/March 2014