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What's the Buzz? Major Retailers to Phase Out Bee-killing Pesticides

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It will soon be easier for gardeners to make plant selections that are less likely to harm North Carolina's honeybee population. (Hiberianscribe/morguefile)
It will soon be easier for gardeners to make plant selections that are less likely to harm North Carolina's honeybee population. (Hiberianscribe/morguefile)
 By Stephanie CarsonContact
December 14, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – In recent years, winter months have taken a toll on North Carolina's honeybees, but beekeepers across the country are buzzing about a new development.

Major retailer Home Depot is phasing out the sale of flowering plants using pesticides that can kill bees.

Neonicotinoids are believed to be major contributors to global bee declines and have been commonly used in growing the plants sold in large and small commercial nurseries.

Home Depot spokesman Stephen Holmes says the company is doing what it can to remove the stress on the world's bee population.

"We understand the importance of the bee population and greatly appreciate that,” he states. “And if in fact neonics are having a negative impact on those pollinators, then we want to be a part of the solution."

So far, Home Depot says it has removed the pesticide from 80 percent of its plants, with plans for a complete phase out by 2018.

Lowe's, based in North Carolina, has announced it will stop selling plants on which these pesticides are used by spring of 2019. According to the website BeeInformed.org, North Carolina saw a winter honeybee loss last year of 41 percent, a loss greater than in neighboring Tennessee or South Carolina.

Holmes says Home Depot began the process last year when it started labeling plants grown with the pesticide, but adds it's up to consumers to be aware of what they're planting in their gardens.

"Most all nurseries and sellers of live goods, they have some level of neonic treatment on many of their plants," he points out.

Florida and California still require that plants grown and sold there use neonicotinoids to prevent pest problems.

Earlier this year, the White House established a national strategy for saving the nation's bees. It includes a plan to work with the EPA to review the risks posed by neonics and the desire to limit their use in areas where large populations of pollinators may be present.

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