Are We Poisoning our Pollinators with Good Intentions?

Buy Plants that are Chemical Free and Pollinator Friendly!

 What can backyard gardeners do to help our native bees and pollinators? The single most important step aside from not using insecticides or herbicides is to buy neonicotinoid-free flowers and vegetable plants from local nurseries or from a reputable seed provider. Do not buy plants or seeds from the “Big Box Stores” you may be poisoning honey bees, native bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators!

Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticide, a chemical related to nicotine, which is more toxic to insects than mammals and other vertebrates.   Neonicotinoids claim to fame is that they are water-soluble and can be applied to the soil versus traditional insecticides that are sprayed on plants.   Plants absorb the chemical in their roots allowing it to permeate their vascular structure, and when an insect pest comes to eat, it is poisoned.   The insecticide even affects beneficial insects like a bee, while gathering pollen they pick up the chemical and return it to their nesting chambers where it is fed to the developing larvae. The chemical is a neurotoxin that disrupts brain function and in bees this translates into disorientation and an inability to navigate or forage for food.

READ LABELS! The following insecticides contain neonicotinoids: Acetamiprid, Clothianidin, Dinotefuran, Imidacloprid, Thiocloprid, Thiamethoxam.

Designed to kill insect pests, pollinators are merely innocent victims of its use. Most research regarding the negative effects of neonicotinoids has been associated with honey bees. These chemicals are believed to be one of the contributing factors associated with Colony Collapse Disorder affecting honey bees. It weakens the general health of the hive so they become more susceptible to other diseases that lead to their demise. New research is showing bumble bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators are also adversely affected by its use.

Even if you do not use insecticides you may inadvertently be poisoning bees by purchasing plants that contain neonicotinoids.  The “big box stores” are the biggest culprits: Walmart, Target ,Home Depot, Lowes, BJ’s Wholesale Club and other major retailers sell plants that are toxic to bees and other pollinators. If you buy plants or seeds from these stores with the purpose of helping pollinators you may actually be causing more harm than good. BJ’s and Home Depot are now labeling their plants that contain neonicotinoids. Native Beeology strongly recommends you do not purchase plants from these stores.

The advantage of buying from local nurseries is you can ask how they grow their plants and are they pollinator friendly and chemical free.  We each how the power to effect change in how and where we choose to spend our money and what we plant in our own backyards.

I leave the reader with a thought… It is known these chemicals cause neurological disorders in insects, what is the ripple effect further down the food chain? What is the long term affect on humans?


“Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees? A Review of Research into the Effects of Neonicotinoid Insecticides Bees with Recommendations for Action. “ The Xerces Society, 2012.

Recommended Native Nurseries in the Hudson Valley.

1) Catskill Native Nursery –

2) Rainbow’s End Butterfly Farm and Nursery –

3) Hudson Valley Seed Library –

4) American Beauties Native Plants – – (type in area code to find closest retailer)

5) Adam’s Fairacre Farms