Organic Consumers Association

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OCA's Save the Bees Campaign

Twin Cities Garden Centers Ban Pesticide Thought to Harm Bees

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Honey Bee Health Page.

The growing season is fast approaching, and this year, many gardeners have a new worry: how to attract pollinators to their gardens without poisoning them in the process.

It's a complex and controversial topic that caught fire last summer after the release of a study claiming that many plants sold at garden centers, even so-called "bee-friendly" plants, had been pre-treated with neonicotinoids, a widely used class of pesticides that some believe is a factor in bee die-offs or colony collapse disorder.

Many home gardeners had never heard of the "n" word before last year.

"One woman called me, crying, because her whole hedge, that she'd planted in part for pollinators, came from a company that uses neonics," said Paige Pelini, co-owner of Mother Earth Gardens in Minneapolis, which recently hosted a seminar on the topic. "I'm glad people are worked up about it," she said, although she doesn't want gardeners to panic and overreact.    

Neonicotinoids' role in bee decline, as well as how long the pesticide remains active and toxic, is unknown and being studied. However, some garden retailers are already taking action. Minneapolis-based Bachman's recently announced that it had removed products containing neonicotinoids from its store shelves, and was eliminating the use of neonicotinoids in its nursery stock and outdoor plants at its growing range in Lakeville.

"It was not an easy decision," said John Daniels, vice president of production and wholesale. "We spent all winter talking about it." He noted that other factors are suspected in bee decline, including loss of habitat. "This is a fast-moving story, and the story is way ahead of the science," Daniels said. Still, Bachman's received many calls from concerned gardeners and decided to take precautionary action. "We're taking it very seriously. Everybody is."

That's not to say that every plant sold at Bachman's this growing season will be neonicotinoid-free, Daniels cautioned. Bachman's-grown plants will be not treated with that class of pesticides, but plants from other growers may have been. Bachman's is currently surveying its growers and training sales associates on the issue, so that they can direct concerned customers to plants that have not been treated, Daniels said. Bachman's-grown plants also will be identified in their labeling.   
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