Big box plants bad for bees?

Impatiens on shelvesCan a bee-friendly garden actually kill bees rather than help them? An article published last June on reported that gardeners may be accidentally poisoning bees when they purchase what they think are bee-friendly flowers at big box stores in the U.S. and Canada. Several named store brands in the article were found to be selling plants that had been treated to neonicotinoids, the highly toxic pesticide that’s been getting a lot of news lately, particularly as it relates to bee deaths.

Ontario is taking action to protect the health of pollinators, including birds, bees, and butterflies. Meanwhile, what can we do? Here are some ideas:

1. Try independent garden nurseries that specialize in locally grown plants and ask whether the plants you’re interested in have been treated with pesticides.

2. Look for organically grown plants or try your hand at growing plants from seed from organic suppliers.

3. Think ‘pretty good’ rather than ‘pretty perfect’. Use of pesticides in the gardening industry has a lot to do with our desire for unblemished plants. Once we start changing our definition of a beautiful garden, we start to become a little more tolerant of pests and, ultimately, pollinators will benefit from that change of view.


5 thoughts on “Big box plants bad for bees?

  1. Pingback: Bee positive: Making a change in the garden and at the store | Rhymes with Linnaeus

    • I’m hoping that things of have changed since that article was published last spring but I doubt that we’ll be seeing pesticide-free plants in large garden centres and big stores soon. Pesticide treated plants may be part of our future for a long time but if we make a point of asking about neonicotinoids at the cash register, we’ll be raising awareness. And at the end of the day, we vote with our dollars!


      • So very true. I believe the EU has banned neonicotinoids so we should be safe this side of the Atlantic, but who knows what alternatives producers have been spraying their plants with. Perhaps a very good reason for gardeners to grow as much as possible from seed.


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