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Big-Box Stores Become More "Bee-Friendly"

New numbers show that stores carrying "bee-friendly" products are seeing an uptick in sales, while lowering the use of toxic pesticides. (iStockphoto)
New numbers show that stores carrying "bee-friendly" products are seeing an uptick in sales, while lowering the use of toxic pesticides. (iStockphoto)
August 18, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — New tests found significant decreases in the use of bee-killing pesticides on "bee-friendly" plants. That’s good news for bees.

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

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 big box retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's 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,” Finck-Haynes said. “And so that's what's really shifting the entire garden industry.”

According to the the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Illinois beekeepers reported that more than 60 percent of their colonies died in 2014. Researchers named pesticides and varroa mites as just two of the issues leading to the bee population decline.

Bee losses have to stop, Finck-Haynes said. But some retailers are still selling plants pre-treated with pesticides. She said 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,” Finck-Haynes said. "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.”

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

A list of retailer's and grower's policies on pesticide use is available here.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL