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By Miriam Raftery

July 10, 2014 (San Diego’s East County)--Are the roses and other garden plants you’ve purchased recently killing off bees and butterflies?

A new study finds that half of all garden plants sold at big-box stores such as Walmart and Home Depot contain neonicotoids—pesticides that are toxic to bees and other pollinating insects. 

The study was conducted by the Pesticide Research Institute and by the environmental group Friends of the Earth.

Most home gardeners have no idea that the plants they are buying are laced with poisons that kill bees, which carry the pollen from the poison-laden plants back to their hives. Stores are not required to put warning labels on plants, so consumers have no way to even know if the plants have been sprayed with the toxins, which can linger for many months.

Now some retailers are taking steps to help protect bees and other beneficial insects.  BJ’s Wholesale Club says it aims to sell plants soon that are neonicinoid free. Home Depot hasn’t gone that far, but says it will require that all plants sprayed with these pesticides be labeled by the end of this year, giving consumers a choice on what to buy – or not buy.

While the pesticides can help control unwanted pests, such as white flies, they aren’t selective – also killing bees that farmers rely on to pollinate crops. 

The agribusiness industry has tried to claim that more studies are needed and that bees don’t consume the poisonous flowers, only the nectar and pollen. 

But Tim Brown, one of the study’s authors, debunks that claim, stating that when pesticides are in the plant’s tissues, “it’s in the pollen and nectar too.”


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