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Retailers are "Bee-ing" More Friendly to Bees

Home gardeners are being urged to step up the pressure on stores that don't sell "bee-friendly" plants. (Virginia Carter)
Home gardeners are being urged to step up the pressure on stores that don't sell "bee-friendly" plants. (Virginia Carter)
August 17, 2016

BALTIMORE - Some good news for bees, as new tests find significant decreases in the use of bee-killing pesticides on "bee-friendly" plants.

Friends of the Earth and the Pesticide Research Institute took samples of plants in 13 U.S. cities, including Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and compared them to samples taken in 2013 and 2014. They were looking for neonicotinoid insecticides in plants sold to gardeners and homeowners.

In the previous tests, half of the plants tested positive for the toxins, this time, only 23 percent did.

Tiffany Finck-Haynes, Food Futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said retailers are starting to sell "bee-friendly" plants.

"Almost 70 retailers across the U.S. have made commitments to stop selling plants, and in some cases products, that contain bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, and so that's what's really shifting the entire garden industry," she said.

The Bee Informed Partnership at the University of Maryland said beekeepers across the U.S. lost 44 percent of their honey-bee colonies between April 2015 and April of this year. The researchers blame the varroa mite, pesticides and malnutrition caused by changing land use.

Finck-Haynes said bee losses have to stop, and noted some retailers are still selling plants pre-treated with pesticides. She hopes consumers will put pressure on those companies.

"Over 50 percent of Americans are more likely to shop at a Lowe's or a Home Depot because they've made that commitment to stop selling these bee killing pesticides," she added. "So, this really demonstrates to Walmart, Ace and True Value that they could potentially lose their customers if they don't make these formal commitments."

She added that more than 100 businesses, cities, universities, states and countries have restricted use of pesticides that are lethal to bees. A survey by Greenhouse Grower magazine found nearly three-quarters of growers who supply mass merchants and home-improvement chains said they will not use neonicotinoids this year.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD