Pesticides in “Bee-Friendly” flowers

Pesticides in “Bee-Friendly” flowers

Before you buy at Lowes or the garden center read this......
Unknown pollinator on Zinnia, photo by Butts'Bees
Take a walk around your local garden centre and you will see a
mouth-watering display of gorgeous plants on display. You might note
that some are specifically labelled as bee or pollinator friendly, with a
picture of a cartoon bumblebee on the label. The Royal Horticultural
Society (RHS) provide a “Perfect for Pollinators” logo which can be
added to the label of any of the long list of garden plants that they
judge to be good for pollinators. If you like hearing the buzz of bees
in your garden, and want to do your bit to help our wildlife, you might
well be tempted. Indeed, I have often spent a small fortune myself on
potted plants when I only went to the garden centre to buy a pack of
vegetable seeds. The big DIY and supermarket chains are similar –
somewhere by the main entrance you will see a range of colourful plants
in plastic pots and trays, some of them labelled as bee-friendly.

            If, like me, you’ve ever succumbed to the temptation to
buy these plants, you may be somewhat concerned by the results of our
latest research. Here at Sussex University we have been busy screening
the leaves, pollen and nectar of these plants to see if they contain
pesticides. We bought flowering plants from a range of major outlets;
Wyevale (the biggest garden centre chain in the UK) and also Aldi,
B&Q and Homebase. We deliberately bought plants that are known to be
attractive to bees and butterflies; most of them had a bee-friendly
logo, often the RHS one.
Honeybee on sunflower, photo by Butts'Bees

We found that most of these plants contained a cocktail of
pesticides, usually a mixture of fungicides and insecticides. I wish I
could say that I was surprised by the results, but sadly I wasn’t, for
this mirrors similar studies performed in other countries. Only two out
of 29 plants contained no pesticides. Seventy six percent of them
(22/29) contained at least one insecticide, and 38% contained two or
more insecticides. One flowering heather plant contained five different
insecticides and five different fungicides – a veritable toxic bouquet.
Seventy percent of the plants contained neonicotinoids (insecticides
that are notorious for their harmful effects on bees), commonly
including the ones banned for use on flowering crops by the EU (for the
technically minded, 38% contained imidacloprid, 14% contained
thiamethoxam and one contained clothianidin). Enough detail; you get the
picture. Plants sold as ‘bee-friendly’ plants are usually stuffed full
of pesticides.
Read More at Dave Goulson's blog


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