|When you plant for pollinators, you don't want toxic flowers|
To refresh your memory, in 2013, Friends of the Earth (FOE) conducted a landmark study, publicized in their report Gardeners Beware. Sampling plants from garden centers and big box stores across the country, they found widespread presence of neonicotinoids (called neonics for short) in the plants offered to consumers.
FOE’s Bee Action campaign continues. With other environmental organizations as allies, they’ve succeeded in mobilizing consumers to oppose use of these pesticides.
|Shoppers prefer their flowers without insecticides|
There’s good information regarding neonics on the Friends of the Earth website, including a handout on how to recognize and avoid the neonics sold in the US: acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam.
You can watch for these names and avoid pesticide sprays that contain them, such as Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insecticide and Bayer Advanced Complete Insect Killer. I’ve never been desperate enough to resort to these broad-spectrum insecticides in my garden, but I understand how gardeners can panic and reach for a spray bottle.
|Before spraying chewed leaves, give beneficial insects time to solve the problem by eating leaf-eaters|
Neonics are systemic insecticides that insects take in when they eat or touch treated plant tissues, as when bees collect pollen from flowers of treated plants.
|Neonic-treated pollen can poison bees|
They may die immediately, become disoriented, or pass on the poison to others in the hive. Once treated, plant tissues continue to hold the toxins almost indefinitely.
Neonics are widely used to maximize yield and keep plant foliage looking clean and unchewed as plants pass from growers to distributors to garden centers. We don’t have to spray neonics ourselves to poison pollinators in our yards; our plant purchases will be toxic to insects unless we purposely avoid neonic-treated plants.
|Garden center seedlings may be contaminated with neonics|
The Friends of the Earth campaign has convinced some major retailers to stop using neonics or label treated plants: here’s a link to their list. BJ’s Wholesale Club promised that their plants would be neonic-free or labeled by the end of 2017. Home Depot committed to completing its neonic phase-out by 2018. Lowe’s pledged to work on it. True Value says their plants will be neonic-free by spring 2018.
Unfortunately Massachusetts is not a leader in this effort. National campaigns like FOE’s have more leverage with big nationally visible chains than with local businesses, apparently. I’ve had luck shopping at Allandale Farm in Chestnut Hill, which doesn’t use conventional pesticides and commits to sustainable practices.
As I plan my seed purchases for 2018, I’ll let you know where I find organic seeds and pesticide-free seeds.
|They don't make seed catalogs like they used to|
I believe this is a temporary problem; eventually the nursery business will bow to consumer pressure and provide us with reliably neonic-free seeds and plants. Will they convert to pollinator-friendly methods? That depends on whether we keep up the pressure.
|At the Climate March, April 2017|