Bee positive: Making a change in the garden and at the store

Plant sign

Cute little plastic signs were popping up in flower beds and containers at a recent garden tour in Toronto.

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.



4 thoughts on “Bee positive: Making a change in the garden and at the store

  1. Thanks so much for this info! I have touted Canada as having superior sense in the healthy lawn & garden department and I can see that this continues to be the case! 🙂 One other tip, you could consider obtaining perennials from organic catalogs. It takes longer but may be worth it in the long-run. Perennials cost a bit more upfront but last long and there are many pollinator-friendly plants out there.


    • I agree with buying organic plants. Unfortunately, I find that they are not so easy to find, particularly at garden centres in large urban areas. But the more we grow awareness about these issues, the better the chance that we’ll see great choices from garden retailers. Thanks for your input!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. The average person isn’t concerned about the blight of the pollinator when in fact everyone in the world should be standing up and shouting – no pollinators, no food, no human race. Thank you for the reminder and the information on various stores and their goals.


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