Neonicotinoids In Your Bee Friendly Plants?

Reports from Friends of the Earth have confirmed a concern I have had for some years now:  the issue of contamination of ‘bee friendly plants’ bought from retail outlets, being contaminated with neonicotinoids.  In particular, I’ve had major concerns about Dutch bulbs, due to a Dutch documentary I saw regarding the use of neonicotinoids in their cultivation.

Update:  Please note, this page was written in 2014.  The information may or may not be applicable today.

Two key reports, one from the USA, one from Europe:

Reports from Friends of the Earth


Friends of the Earth in the USA have raised concerns about plants being cultivated using neonicotinoids.  Is such cultivation using neonicotinoids happening in other countries?  

gardeners beware - plants may be laced with neonicotinoids


Greenpeace also conducted a study:

'A Toxic Eden:  Poisons in Your Garden; An analysis of bee-harming pesticides in ornamental plants sold in Europe'.

Samples were taken from 10 European countries:

and Switzerland.

Pesticides, including neonicotinoids, which have particular properties, such as being systemic and persistent in soil. 

Who lobbies the EU most?  Agri business.  Source:  Corporate Europe.Who lobbies the EU most? Agri business. Source: Corporate Europe.

Samples from the UK were not included.

(Copy and paste this link in a new window to see the report:

Key points from the report:

  • Results were gathered from the laboratory analysis of ornamental plants sourced from garden centres, supermarkets and DIY-stores in ten European countries.

  • The samples comprised more than 35 popular varieties like viola, bellflower and lavender which are attractive to bees.

  • Of the 86 samples analysed, pesticide residues were found in 84 (97,6%) of these flowering plants. Only 2% of the samples contained no detectable residues.
  • Insecticides regarded as of particular toxicological significance to bees were found frequently. In 68 of the 86 tested ornamental plants (79% of the samples) bee-harming pesticides were detected.
  • The three neonicotinoid pesticides which have been restricted Europe-wide for certain agricultural uses in order to prevent exposure to bees were found in almost half of the samples, partly in high concentrations:

             - 43% of the samples contained Imidacloprid,

               - 8% Thiamethoxam

               - 7% Clothianidin.

Actions we can take

Here are some suggestions:

  • Grow from (untreated) seeds (many bee-friendly plants are easily grown from seed, including, Canterbury Bells, Cornflower, Cosmos, Lupin, Linnaria, Polemonium, Poppy). See bee friendly plants.
  • Share bee-friendly plants with friends and family you trust, from older, neonic-free stock
  • Buy from a local nursery.  Check that they do not use neonicotinoids, including Thiacloprid and Acetamiprid.

  • Leave out the pesticides.

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