Home Depot to Phase Out Bee Killing Pesticides

Beyond Pesticides   December 4, 2015 

Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement chain, has announced that it will no longer use neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides (which have emerged as the leading class of pesticides responsible for bee declines) in 80 percent of its flowering plants, and that it will complete its phase-out in plants by 2018. This follows the announcement made by Lowe’s earlier this year to phase out the sale of products containing neonicotinoid pesticides within 48 months.

October_2013_home_depot_logoOn its Eco Options gardening page, Home Depot says the following: “Our live goods suppliers have reduced the number of plants that they treat with neonicotinoids, so that now over 80% of our flowering plants are not treated HomeDepotWinBP with neonicotinoids. We will continue this decrease unless, 1) it is required by state or federal regulation, or 2) undisputed science proves that the use of neonicotinoids on our live goods does not have a lethal or sub lethal effect on pollinators. Otherwise we will have a complete phase-out of neonicotinoid use on our live goods by the end of 2018.”

“It’s important that retailers begin to make the switch toward safer products for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. Retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s are “helping consumers break away from a dependency on the use of toxic pesticides in their homes and gardens,” he continued in a statement to Friends of the Earth. These decisions signal a shift in the marketplace away from bee-toxic pesticides, despite the lack of regulatory action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Advocates want to see these actions by two major retailers prompt other significant retail chains to move toward safer alternatives.

Home Depot’s newest commitment to protecting pollinators follows steadfast demands from environmental allies and consumers to take neonicotinoids off of the shelves. Home Depot previously decided to start requiring all nursery plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids to carry a label to inform customers, following a report written last year. The report,Gardeners Beware 2014, shows that 36 out of 71 (51 percent) of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid pesticides. Some of the flowers contained neonic levels high enough to kill bees outright and concentrations in the flowers’ pollen and nectar were assumed to be comparable. Further, 40% of the positive samples contained two or more neonics.

While neonicotinoid insecticides have been responsible for high profile bee kills from high doses of the pesticides, there is a strong and growing body of science shows that neonics contribute to impairment in reproduction, learning and memory, hive communications, and immune response at doses far below those that cause bee kills. An extensive overview of major studies showing the effects of neonics on pollinator health can be found on Beyond Pesticides’ What the Science Shows webpage.

The easiest way to ensure that seeds are not treated with neonics is to buy seeds that are certified organic or plants grown with organic practices. While untreated seeds are a step in the right direction, they do not ensure that the seed production practices are protective of bees or that residual chemicals do not contaminate the plant. For example, studies raise concerns over the connection between the use of fungicides and the declining overall health of bee colonies, shining a light on the negative impacts their use has on overall bee health. Seeds and plants that are certified organic, on the other hand, do not permit the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics, sewage sludge, or irradiation. To assist consumers in making the best choice for pollinator protections, Beyond Pesticides launched its Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory, a comprehensive list of companies that sell organic seeds to the general public. Toxic pesticides harmful to bees, including neonics, are not permitted in seeds certified organic, which display the USDA Organic label on their packaging. Included in this directory are seeds for vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Individual municipalities, encouraged by local interests, have also seen success in taking meaningful action against the use of neonicotinoids. The City of Portland, Oregon recently votedunanimously to ban the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on city-owned property because these pesticides are persistent in the environment, harmful to pollinators, and have been involved inacute bee kills in other areas of the state. Similar actions have been seen in Eugene, Oregon,Skagway (Alaska), Shorewood, MinnesotaBoulder, Colorado and, in Washington State, Thurston CountySeattle, and Spokane. These local actions show the power of communities to protect and conserve their natural resources from the dangers of products containing neonicotinoids

The next step is to encourage other retail chains to follow in the footsteps of localities, and big retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s. True Value and Ace Hardware pride themselves in being leaders in customer satisfaction, so we need to show them that their customers don’t want neonics in their products and on their plants. There are no more excuses — we know it’s possible to get these pesticides off their shelves. It’s time for True Value and Ace Hardware to join their competitors and eliminate neonics. You can encourage this switch by signing onto our letter asking them to show similar leadership and commit to not sell neonicotinoid pesticides.

For more information on how hardware stores can go organic and protect pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides’ video, Making the Switch, and our report on A Well-Stocked Hardware Store!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Friends of the Earth

Read at: http://www.foe.org/news/archives/2015-12--home-depot-to-phase-out-bee-killing-pesticides

Your (not so) "bee-friendly" Plants

Pesticide Action Network     By Paul Towers      June 27, 2014

Bee-harming pesticides in our lavender and daisies? In the same week that an international body of scientists released a comprehensive global assessment of the harms of pesticides to bees, a new report shows that these very same pesticides are found in many of our backyard plants — at levels of concern — that are meant to support pollinators.

The report shows that 51% of garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers (Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart) in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides — a key driver of declining bee populations. Concerning levels of the pesticides were found in places like California’s San Francisco Bay Area and in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. In some cases, multiple neonics were found in the same plant, in the leaves, stalks or flowers.

Last year, we conducted a smaller version of the research project with Pesticide Research Institute and Friends of the Earth. And the good news is that some retailers are taking notice, including some home and garden stores like Bachman’s and BJ’s Wholesale Club, as well as grocers pledging to remove the pesticides from their shelves and supply chains.

The big players — Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart — have a lot more work to do as they shift industrial nursery growing practices to green, cutting-edge alternatives.

Impact of neonics

Neonics are a relatively new class of systemic pesticides that can be applied as seed coatings, as granules or sprayed on plants; they're taken up through the plant's vascular system and expressed in pollen and nectar. Even at sublethal doses they're toxic to bees and other pollinators.

But the science is clear: pesticides, particularly neonics, are playing a key role in bee declines.

That's the case for most of the levels found in nursery plants; they might not kill bees outright but they are increasingly linked to reproductive impairment, immune suppression, homing failure and impaired foraging — all factors that compound the other stressors bees face and contribute to their decline.

However, none of this is true if you ask neonic manufacturers like Bayer and Syngenta. They continue to spin and confuse the issue, downplaying the role their products play by obfuscating the science around pesticides and pollinators and attempting to re-focus public conversation on other bee stressors like mites. But the science is clear: pesticides, particularly neonics, are playing a key role in bee declines.

The “wake-up call” science report

Earlier this week, 29 independent scientists released the four-years-in the-making “Worldwide Integrated Assessment” on the impacts of neonics after reviewing hundreds of scientific papers. The report documents significant harms to honey bees and other pollinators, as well as entire ecosystems that serve as the underpinnings of our food system.

One of the report's lead authors summarized the situation as:

"Far from protecting food production the use of neonics is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it, imperiling the pollinators, habitat engineer and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem.”

Among the findings of the report:

  • Neonics are incredibly persistent, lingering in the soil up to several years,
  • The breakdown products or metabolites of neonics can be more toxic than their so-called “active” ingredients,
  • The current measures of the risks of neonics aren’t working and “conceal their true impact.”

My colleague and PAN’s staff scientist, Emily Marquez, PhD, says the findings should galvanize regulators in states and at the federal level:

“This report should be a final wake-up call for American regulators who have been slow to respond to the science. The weight of the evidence showing harm to bees and other pollinators should move EPA to restrict neonicotinoids sooner than later. And the same regulatory loopholes that allowed these pesticides to be brought to the market in the first place — and remain on the shelf — need to be closed.”

Communities creating bee havens

While President Obama announced the creation of a new federal task force to address bee declines last week, EPA and other federal agencies don’t have a good track record on the issues. Filling the void, states and local governments have been stepping up. My community — Sacramento — has used the opportunity to call for the city to become a pesticide-free "Honey Bee Haven." In a release today, the vice mayor even said protecting bees is essential to keep the city "prosperous." 

This follows similar actions by Eugene, OR earlier this year and Spokane, WA earlier this week to phase out bee-harming pesticides and prioritize bee health. And one neighborhood in Boulder, CO declared itself “bee-safe” earlier this month.

Bayer, Syngenta, Monsanto and other pesticide corporations have caught wind of these efforts and are continuing with aggressive public relations efforts. But no number of Bayer coloring books can color over the power of communities in action.

Learn more » Want to make your backyard or community a Honey Bee Haven? Visit www.honeybeehaven.org for tips and tools — and to take the pledge to protect pollinators.

[For another view on the new Harvard Study and what's killing our bees see Randy Oliver's blog at: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/news-and-blogs-page/]

Bee Love, Coast to Coast

Pesticide Action Network        By Lex Horan    2/19/14

Last Wednesday morning, thirty people braved the cold to swarm a Minneapolis Home Depot, asking the store to “show bees some love” on Valentine’s Day.

Babies in bee suits, beekeepers on bicycles, and a slew of other Minnesotans were eager to urge home garden stores to stop selling bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides — and plants pre-treated with "neonics." Retailers like Home Depot have a unique opportunity to act as industry leaders by taking these products, known to endanger bees, off their shelves.

Since I was visiting our Oakland office last week, I got to join my PAN colleagues and other bee-lovers swarming a Home Depot in the Bay Area. There were similar events in Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Eugene. These coast-to-coast actions mirror bigger national changes, as decisionmakers start to rethink their rubber-stamping of neonicotinoids.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is currently reviewing neonics. After 50,000 bumblebees died in Wilsonville, Oregon last year, a bill to restrict neonics made significant progress through the Oregon legislature. And in Congress, new co-sponsors continue to sign on to the Save America's Pollinator Act.

These are all hopeful indicators of growing momentum — exactly the kind of momentum we need, if we hope to see real action at the federal level to protect bees. But so far, EPA has held out; the agency still doesn't plan to complete its review of neonicotinoids until 2018 or later.

New science, same message

Retailers, regulatory agencies, and state and federal legislatures have been slow to protect bees from pesticides — but it’s certainly not for lack of scientific evidence, which keeps piling up.

A new study released in December found that neonicotinoids are present in significant concentrations in guttation fluid — droplets of "dew" on plants that bees drink. And a few weeks ago,another report found that common crop pesticides kill bee larvae when they make their way into beehives.

As these and other studies emerge, it helps us understand the science behind pesticides and bee declines a little more fully. While habitat loss, pathogens and other factors like nutrition also clearly play a role, the message remains consistent: many pesticides are harming bees. Period.

More "bee washing"

As the body of science linking bee declines and pesticides grows ever stronger, the pesticide industry is hard at work to distract decisionmakers and confuse the public about the causes of bee declines.

While we were busy delivering Valentines messages to Home Depot last week, Bayer — one of the"Big 6" pesticide corporations, and one of the world's main producer of neonicotinoids — was writing a check to bee researchers at the University of California-Davis. Bayer made no secret of its contribution. In fact, the company’s visit to UC Davis was just one stop on the its high-profile “Bee Care Tour.”

As public and regulatory momentum builds to protect bees from harmful pesticides, industry giants like Bayer have upped their efforts to craft a "bee-friendly" image. These “bee washing" antics have multiplied as bee declines become more serious, with corporations positioning themselves as friends of the pollinators.

In the past year, Bayer and Monsanto have organized conferences, built “bee centers,” and announced “bee care tours,” working to hone their credibility as concerned advocates for bee health. Along the way, they've funded research that points to factors besides pesticides as driving causes of pollinator declines. And all the while, they keep selling and marketing neonicotinoids, the most widely used class of pesticides on the planet.

This bee-related PR push is relatively recent, but the dirty tricks of the pesticide industry are nothing new. As an organizer, I believe that the only counterweight to industry’s money and influence is our strength in numbers. When more than half a million bee lovers asked Home Depot and Lowe's to stop selling neonicotinoids last week, it reminded me that our power is growing. It's about time for decisionmakers to start listening.

Photo courtesy of Liz Welch (from Organic Consumers Assn).

Read more 

No Strawberries, No Honey - Without Bees!

Beyond Pesticides    2/4/14

No strawberries, no honey — without bees Valentine’s Day just wouldn’t be the same.

In fact, one out of three bites of food depend on honey bee pollination, but they are in danger from the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that Europe has already banned. We know bees can’t wait any longer for increased protections, so we need to take a stand wherever we can.

ShowBeesSomeLoveThat’s why we’re asking you to join thousands of people coast-to-coast toswarm Home Depot and Lowe’s stores the week of Valentine’s Day (February 10-16).

We’ll be delivering valentines, asking these stores to “show bees some love” and stop selling bee-killing pesticides and garden plants poisoned with these harmful chemicals. Planting season is right around the corner. We can’t let another year pass with Home Depot and Lowe’s selling “poisoned plants” with no warning to consumers.

Last year U.S. beekeepers reported a30-100 percent loss of their hives, and right now they are likely facing another winter of historic bee die-offs. You can help BEE Protective of pollinators during another tough winter season by delivering a Valentine to retailers. We’ve made it easy:

Sign up here and we’ll send you a printable valentine with a step-by-step guide closer to the date.


Scientific studies are consistently finding that a new, and increasingly popular class of pesticides, called neonicotinoids, are significant contributors to the devastating decline of pollinators across the globe. They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam, and products containing these pesticides can be found on this list. Peer-reviewed science has repeatedly identified these insecticides as highly toxic to honey bees and other pollinators. Once applied, plants take up these pesticides and exude them in their pollen and nectar, subsequently endangering any pollinators that forage on these contaminated plants.

A report co-released late last year by Beyond Pesticides, Friends of the Earth, and other allies revealed that the neonicotinoids may be lurking in our own gardens. The study showed that more than half of the “bee-friendly” plants sold at retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s contained these bee-killing pesticides. In lieu of federal action to restrict the chemicals, we must take a stand against retailers who continue to sell poisoned plants.

More BEE Protective Actions:

Help Beyond Pesticides build the buzz on all fronts by asking retailers, administrators, and elected officials to take action by eliminating or curtailing the sale and use of neonicotinoid pesticides.

Join Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, Ceres Trust over 60 other groups’ coalition-based national advertising campaign to raise awareness of pollinator declines and urge EPA to stop stalling by enacting substantive restrictions on the use of bee-harming pesticides.

Devote your garden or landscape to the protection of pollinators. Download the BEE Protective Habitat Guide and see our Managing Landscapes with Pollinators in Mind webpage for information on how to create pollinator-friendly habitat in your community.

Keep the pressure on your elected officials to support a bill that would suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until a full review of scientific evidence and a field study demonstrates no harmful impacts to pollinators. The bill currently has 50 cosponsors in Congress. Is your Representative one of them?

Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign includes a variety of educational materials to help encourage municipalities, campuses, and individual homeowners to adopt policies and practices that protect bees and other pollinators from harmful pesticide applications and create pesticide-free refuges for these beneficial organisms. In addition to scientific and regulatory information, BEE Protective also includes a model community pollinator resolution and a pollinator protection pledge. Pollinators are a vital part of our environment and a barometer for healthy ecosystems. Let’s all do our part to BEE Protective of these critical species.


All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.