Big Box Stores' 'Bee-Friendly' Plants May Be Killing Them Instead

Thursday, 26 Jun 2014 06:37 PM

By Jason Devaney

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New research shows that big-box stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe's could be contributing to the killing off of bees.

The results of the study, released by the Pesticide Research Institute and Friends of the Earth this week, suggest that the pesticides stores are putting on plants in their garden centers are having a deadly affect.

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Researchers bought 71 plants that bees typically pollinate, including daisies, lavender, marigolds, asters, and primrose, at Lowe's, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot stores in 18 cities in the United States and three provinces in Canada. Thirty-six of them contained increased levels of neonicotinoids, which are in pesticides and are toxic to bees, butterflies, and other insects that pollinate. The neonicotinoids measured anywhere between 2 and 758 parts per billion.

University of Minnesota ecotoxicologist Vera Krischik said in Wired that neonicotinoids at 192 ppb can kill a honeybee. And data suggests that at lower levels, between 4 and 30 ppb, neonicotinoids can cause problems with navigation, memory, and foraging for pollinating insects.

The deaths of bees, Krischik said, has a downhill affect.

"You have these small annual colonies, maybe 30 workers with a queen," Krischik told Wired. "If you start losing those, there’s no nectar, no pollen being brought back. That native hive is going to decline, and when it declines, they don’t produce queens."

The report wastes not time putting the blame on big-box stores as the population of bees and other pollinators continues to decline across the world.

"Two-thirds of the food crops humans eat every day require bees and other pollinators to successfully produce a crop," the first page of the report says. "However, the health and productivity of honey bees, bumble bees, and other pollinators are in great peril, and populations are dwindling worldwide," the report says.

"Concerned citizens have responded by planting 'bee-friendly' gardens to provide urban foraging grounds. Unfortunately, as our new study shows, many of the nurseries that provide bee-attractive plants sold at top retailers in the U.S. and Canada continue to use persistent, systemic neonicotinoid insecticides that have been shown to impair the health and survival of bees and other vulnerable pollinators.""

The report provides suggested guidelines to follow moving forward, which include stopping the use of pesticides that contain neonicotinoids. Nine states have restrictions on neonicotinoids, and chain stores like BJ's Wholesale Club will either reduce the amount of neonicotinoids they use or stop using the substance altogether, according to the report.

There is also a bill in Congress, the Saving America's Pollinator's Act, that would make it illegal to use pesticides with neonicotinoids on bee-friendly plants until more research is conducted and reviewed.

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