Pesticide Progress for Pollinators?

A new study by the Pesticide Research Institute indicates that the presence of neonicotinoids has fallen by half in ornamental plants sold by major retailers. Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticide that is widely considered to be a major threat to the future of bees and other pollinators.


2014-10-05 14.11.03 Bumblebee


The study tested plants purchased from Lowe’s, Walmart, Home Depot, True Value, and Ace Hardware. The presence of neonicotinoids was detected in 23% of the plants in 2016, as opposed to 50% of the plants purchased in 2014.

2014-04-06 13.17.59 crocus tommasinianus with bees

Lowe’s and Home Depot have pledged to phase out plants treated with neonicotinoids, the other retailers have not.

2014-09-28 15.39.51 new england aster with metallic green bee
New England Aster with Metallic Green Bee

It’s gratifying to see that a combination of education, publicity, and consumer organizing can have an impact on corporate behavior, an impact that should lead to a healthier environment for pollinators in urban and suburban areas.

DSC_0488 bumblebee butterflyweed

On the other hand, consumer power alone can only go so far. According to the US EPA, 70% of US pesticide use is related to agriculture, as opposed to 15% in homes and gardens. (That 15% matters a good deal, especially as it is often applied in concentrations greater than those used in agriculture.) Neonicotinoids are commonly used on corn, cotton, sorghum, and most fruits and vegetables.

Bumble Bee, Wild Bergamot
Bumblebee coming in for a landing

I suspect that government regulation will be needed to curtail the use of neonicotinoids in agriculture. Most likely that is not something that will happen in the USA until after a long slog. In the meantime, we can savor this bit of good news for gardeners and pollinators.

23 Comments on “Pesticide Progress for Pollinators?”

  1. Pingback: Pesticide Progress for Pollinators? — gardeninacity | Old School Garden

  2. I also feel that although these news are positive it’s agriculture that’s doing most damage and if the population is continuing to grow at such a rate, they certainly won’t change their methods as it’s all about being efficient in every sense no matter what…

  3. That is good news, but 23% is still too much. Good to know Lowes and Walmart are planning to phase them out entirely. Public education is the key; when the demand becomes great, then the farmers will follow. A few years ago one rarely saw organic fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. Now they are easily available, though admittedly more expensive.

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