Neonicotinoid pesticides, also called neonics, are widely used in commercial greenhouses and have been shown to severely impact the health of bees and other pollinators. In 2013, plants from the garden centers of Home Depot and Lowe’s were found to have high concentrations of these dangerous chemicals. That same summer, the EPA began requiring bee safety warnings on the packaging of neonic pesticides. These new labels prohibit the use of the most common and harmful neoincs (imidacloprid, dinotefuran, clothianidin, and thiamethoxam) in areas where bees are active. Regardless, many commercial growers continue to use neonics widely on plants that are then sold through the garden centers of “big box” stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.
In December of 2014 Home Depot and BJ’s Wholesale began requiring separate labels on all plants that had been treated with neonic pesticides. These measures have already prompted one grower, J. Berry Nurseries in Texas, to stop using neonic pesticides on their plants. Neoincs can persist in plant matter and the soil for years. To date, other stores with sizable garden centers (such as Wal-Mart and Lowe’s) do not label plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids (which are extensively used by their primary plant suppliers).
With luck and pressure from concerned consumers, these other garden centers will follow Home Depot’s lead and require labels on plants treated with neonics.