Neonics at the Garden Center

When buying plants at Home Depot or BJ's, you'll now have a choice about how they're grown. These retailers are requiring their suppliers to tag plants that are treated with the types of pesticides called neonics, in response to public concerns about the impact of these chemicals on pollinators. The plant growers using neonics will add a 1x4.5-inch tag describing the use. Some growers may switch to other chemicals for pest control to avoid the labeling. Other retailers (Lowes, Target) that sell plants treated with neonics are not offering the labeling.

The dangers of neonics are difficult to tease out of the myriad studies of their toxicity. Their widespread use has resulted in powerful lobbyists on several sides of the issue, potentially biasing research. EPA offers some guidance and the President's Pollinator Health Task Force recently completed "listening sessions" to get input from stakeholders, but it seems that federal action will be slow to develop. Europe is now half-way into their 2-year ban on three neonics, and the jury is still out on what the impacts have been. As a beekeeper, I'm aware that there are multiple threats to honeybee health and insecticides are only one of them. Still, it's one that it would be nice to remove if we can do it while growing enough food at a reasonable price.

Where will I buy my plants next year? At local farms and nurseries, organic ones if possible. It may cost a little more, but I'll be supporting a local business that contributes to the community and helps conserve agricultural land. And if I want to know what pesticides were used I'll just ask the owner.