As the gardening season reaches full swing, promoting awareness about our beleaguered bugs has ramped up as well. Everywhere I turn, I’m finding articles and opinion pieces on the need to add pollinator-friendly plants to our gardens. On a recent garden tour organized by the Toronto Botanical Gardens, I kept finding little plastic signs stuck into flower beds and containers bringing attention to plants that are pollinator-friendly.
All good. But here’s the problem: We know that plants sold by big box stores in the U.S. and Canada have been found to be contaminated with neonicotinoids, the pesticide linked to the significant decline in pollinator numbers and bee colony collapse disorder. However, it’s not just big box stores that are selling plants treated with the pesticide.
In an Ontario Nature Blog posting last April, Colleen Cirillo pointed out that a study last year revealed that more than half of all tested plants from Canadian garden centres were contaminated with at least one neonicotinoid. Ironically, many of these plants were being marketed as “bee-friendly”.
So what can we do? Ms. Cirillo has some good suggestions but I think her best one is to simply speak out. Wherever you shop for plants, whether a large chain store or a small garden nursery, ask for pesticide-free plants. And if the staff can’t oblige, suggest to them that they start offering them. And keep asking and suggesting. Consumers can make changes.
You can also support stores that are taking action by taking your dollars to them. Friends Of The Earth have a chart showing where 8 large Canadian garden retailers stand on labelling and/or phasing out plants treated with neonicotinoids. Here’s the cheat sheet:
Home Depot is requiring its suppliers to label treated plants. Lowes is phasing out all treated plants by 2019.
British Columbia-based Art Knapp Plantland is no longer accepting nursery plants treated with neonics. All plants grown by Ontario-based Sheridan Nurseries are neonic-free.
So go out there, gardeners, and help make a better world for bees and butterflies, one plant purchase at a time.