Some Purchased Plants Are Toxic To Bees and Butterflies
To the Editor:
Question: When would buying plants specifically to attract bees and butterflies to your yard result in a toxic environment to those very same bees and butterflies? Answer: It is when the seeds from which the plants were grown had been soaked in a neuro-toxin called neo-nicotinoid (neonics for short). This process makes the plants less susceptible to aphids, white flies, etc. but it also renders plants deadly to bees and other pollinators.
It is difficult to sort out which plant suppliers are using neonics, although Home Depot is requiring any of their plant suppliers to label such plants with a plastic tag. The outside of the tag states the benefits of treatment, while the flip side states that the plant has been treated with neonics. Since most people do not know the significance of this, the tag hardly raises a red flag for most consumers.
An actual case in New Milford illustrated this problem when a young lady used her birthday money to plant a butterfly garden this spring. She purchased multiple plants from a local big box store but to her horror found many sluggish and dead bees beneath the blooms. Upon investigation it was found that the plants she purchased had been treated with neonics. A soil scientist confirmed that indeed the soil itself tested positive for neonics. The family replaced the soil and purchased new plants (from a native plant nursery) and all is well in the new butterfly garden.
Although this incident is anecdotal, a growing body of scientific evidence concludes that neonics are a key contributing factor in the decline of our honey bee populations and may be harmful to other organisms as well. In fact, the European Union has issued a moratorium on neonics. And in this country Lowe’s recently announced that over the next 48 months it will phase out the sale of products containing neonics. Home Depot began an effort last summer to require suppliers to label their plants if they contained neonics, and is working with their suppliers to eliminate the use of this pesticide.
In the meantime, we should try to confirm that any ornamental plants we buy have not been produced from seeds treated with neonics. Being informed and asking questions is always a good practice, and in this case you may be preventing the unwitting introduction of pervasive and harmful chemicals into your yard and garden. Buyer beware!
12 Whippoorwill Hill Road, Newtown August 3, 2015