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Organic Consumers Association

How Consumers Can Grow Bee-Friendly Gardens

  • By Katherine Paul and Patrick Kerrigan
    Organic Consumers Association, June 11, 2014

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page, and our Honey Bee Health page.

Not long after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, bee colonies began disappearing in the U.S. “Neonics” weaken the immune systems of bees. Forager bees bring pesticide-laden pollen and nectar back to the hive, and six months later the bees fall prey to natural bee infections.

We know neonics play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder. And we know that Big Ag is the Biggest User of the pesticides. According to an article in Mother Jones, “virtually the entire US corn crop—which covers more than 90 million acres, far more than any other crop—is grown with seed treated with Bayer's chemical.”

But consumers contribute to the problem, too, when they buy products like Monsanto’s Roundup, Dow’s Rodeo or Bayer 2-1 Systemic Rose and Flower Care. Fortunately, those products are easy to avoid.

Unfortunately, consumers also unwittingly bring bee-killing pesticides into their gardens, when they buy seeds, potting soil and plants pre-treated with neonics.

As word spreads about the plight of the pollinators, informed consumers are finding safer alternatives for weed control, shopping at garden centers that offer neonic-free plants and planting safe, native varieties of plants that attract pollinators (without killing them).

Here are some resources for consumers who want to promote a healthy habitat for healthy pollinators.

Alternatives to Using Roundup

•    Natural Alternatives to Roundup are Quite Easy to Make

•    Is there a Safe Alternative to Roundup?

•    Homemade Roundup Alternative (video)


Online Suppliers of Neonic-Free Seeds

•    GrowOrganic

•    Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.

•    Seeds of Change

•    The Seed and Plant Finder

•    Seed Savers Exchange


Guides for Buying Bee-Friendly Products

•    National guide to garden centers that offer organically grown and non-neonicotinoid coated flowers, trees and shrubs

•    Organic Materials Review Institute guide to retailers

•    Guide to buying organic pest-control and garden products

•    The Seed and Plant Finder

•    Find Organic Gardening Supplies

•    GrowOrganic.com

•    Arbico Organics

•    Planet Natural


Native Plant Resources

•    Find Native Plants

•    Kick the Invasive Exotic Gardening Habit with Great Native Plant Alternatives


How to Plant a Bee-Friendly Garden

•    Plant a Honey Bee Friendly Garden

•    Plant a Bee Garden

•    A Honey Bee Menu for Pollen and Nectar

•    Bee-Friendly Gardening

•    5 Early Season Plants which Attract Pollinators to your Garden

•    How to Attract Native Bees to Your Organic Garden

•    Flower Pollination and Pollination Syndromes

•    Bee Gardens: Flowers, Fruits and Herbs for a Bee-Friendly Habitat

•    Bee-friendly Flowering shrubs


Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

Patrick Kerrigan is retail education coordinator for the Organic Consumers Association.



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