Gardeners Beware: Report Finds Pesticides in Garden Plants

Today, NRDC, Friends of the Earth, and the Pesticide Research Institute released a report showing that common bee-friendly flowering plants sold at stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, Ace Hardware, and True Value contain bee-killing pesticides. The study shows that 23 percent of bee-friendly garden plants sold at top retailers in 14 cities have been treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, the class of pesticides implicated in bee die-offs. Neonicotinoids are particularly toxic to bees because they are systemic pesticides. When a plant is treated with neonicotinoids, the pesticide becomes a part of the plant itself, contaminating the pollen, nectar, leaves, roots, stems, and flowers. 

But there is a silver lining. This year’s results show a significant decrease in neonicotinoids in garden plants compared to similar studies conducted in 2013 and 2014. Retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s are making progress on their commitments to phase-out these pesticides, and that’s making a difference.

In contrast, Chicago-based companies Ace Hardware and True Value have yet to make commitments to take these pesticides out of their plants and off of their shelves. That’s inexcusable. Last year, 44 percent of bee colonies collapsed, and we know neonicotinoids are a key part of the problem. Gardeners plant flowers to attract bees and beautify the landscape; not to poison the tiny insects that pollinate our fruits, flowers, and vegetables.

Ace Hardware and True Value must step up and make a commitment to take these bee-killing pesticides out of their plants and off of their shelves. That way, we can be confident that the flowers we’re planting in our cities and backyards will not only beautify our environment, but will also help bees. 

About the Authors

Rebecca Riley

Senior Attorney, Land & Wildlife program

Join Us