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Retail Outlets Respond to Consumer Bee Concerns

A new study of plants purchased at national retail outlets shows a drop in pesticides harmful to bees. (Pixabay)
A new study of plants purchased at national retail outlets shows a drop in pesticides harmful to bees. (Pixabay)
August 22, 2016

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A campaign to protect declining bee populations is making progress. A new study conducted at garden centers across the U.S. found plants containing neonicotinoid pesticides dropped by more than half in just two years.

Susan Kegley, the report's lead author and principal scientist at the Pesticide Research Institute, said nurseries and retailers are responding to customer concerns about the use of pesticides on flowers that attract bees.

"The neonicotinoids have been shown to cause problems with immune function in bees and with reproduction,” Kegley said. "We've seen a lot of failures of honeybee queens, which are really critical to the success of the colony."

A coalition led by Friends of the Earth delivered more than a million petition signatures collected since 2014, convincing Home Depot and Lowe's to stop using the pesticide. The Pesticide Research Institute study showed the effort has made an impact. Ace Hardware, True Value and Walmart have yet to make similar commitments.

Pesticide producers, including Bayer, argue that bee losses are largely due to Varroa mites.

Almost 40 percent of pollinator species, including bees and butterflies, are at risk of extinction globally, according to United Nations estimates. Kegley said bees play a vital role in the human food chain.

"It's more serious than just 'there's no more honey,’” she said. "It's that our food supply - the good things, the nutritious things with the vitamins and the minerals - the colorful things in our diet are at risk here."

While the results of the report are positive, Kegley said, more can be done to remove harmful pesticides from the supply chain. She pointed to nurseries that have found effective ways to grow plants without pesticides - by introducing other insects that prey upon the bugs that destroy crops, for example.

"The problem of pesticides is that insects become resistant to the different pesticides, and so you keep moving on to the next pesticide,” Kegley said. "But there's no resistance to being eaten."

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NV