According to Nursery Management, December 2nd, 2014, the Home Depot is requiring all plants that have been treated with neonicotinoids to bear a special tag informing customers that the plant has been exposed to that specific type of insecticide.
The retailer is concerned about the effect that neonicotinoid insecticides could be having on pollinator populations.
Neonicotinoid insecticides, such as clothianidin and imidacloprid, are used to defend trees, shrubs and plants against destructive invasive species like the Japanese beetle, hemlock woolly adelgid, emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle. In some cases, neonicotinoids are approved regulatory treatments for certification and interstate movement of nursery and greenhouse crops. In others, they are used to manage the development of pesticide resistance to other treatment options.
“We’ve been in communication with the Environmental Protection Agency, insecticide industry and our suppliers for many months to understand the science and monitor the research,” says Stephen Holmes, Home Depot, director corporate communications. “We’re requiring all of our live goods suppliers to label plants that they have treated with Neonicotinoids by fourth quarter 2014.”
Growers that sell to the Home Depot need to provide a secondary tag for all plant material of all sizes. The tag is a 1” by 4.5” tag, and some growers are concerned about the stigma attached to it. J.Berry Nurseries supplies plants to the Home Depot, and the nursery has changed its practices to avoid the use of neonicotinoids. Jim Berry, the president of J. Berry Nurseries, says his growers had previously used neonicotinoids on tropical hibiscus to control whiteflies. But since the issue had become publicly recognized as a practice that potentially impacted bees and other pollinators, they started looking at alternative practices.
“We view it as the labeling of a plant with that tag is potentially creating customers’ perception that that plant should not be purchased,” Berry says. “Whether it’s a valid assumption or not, perception is reality. So you have to go with that. We certainly want consumers to be attracted to our plants instead of repelled by them.”
Not everyone agrees about the best course of action. Bayer CropScience North America said in a statement on the Home Depot decision that plant protection products, including neonicotinoids, are extensively reviewed by the EPA to make sure they are safe for humans and the environment before they reach the market. Neonicotinoids have been shown to have minimal environmental impact while protecting plants from destructive pests. More than 100 studies have concluded that when used according to label instructions, neonicotinoids are not harmful to bee colonies.
A report issued last year by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the EPA said honey bee health is being impacted by a wide range of factors including lack of forage, disease, and parasites. The USDA identified the Varroa mite as the most important factor related to honey bee colony decline. Australia uses neonicotinoids and has not experienced colony decline, possibly because honey bees there have not been threatened by invasion of the Varroa mite.
AmericanHort and the Horticultural Research Institute, in partnership with the Society of American Florists recently created the Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative taskforce to look deeper into this issue. The taskforce is composed of horticultural professionals and supported by research scientists. It’s their view that pesticides may play some role in the concerns about pollinator health but are likely to be one relatively small factor in a complex array of challenges.
According to Joe Bischoff, regulatory and legislative affairs director for AmericanHort, and a member of the taskforce, there are three main components in its plan:
In the meantime, growers must either accept the potential consumer stigma associated with neonicotinoids, or make the necessary changes and hope their alternative methods work as well.
“It’s the cost of the tag and it’s the impact on consumers, maybe causing them to avoid purchasing plants with that tag,” Berry says. “It’s a double risk.”
Matt McClellan | December 1, 2014
As gardeners, we need to begin to consider what we plant & where we plant it.
We need to think of the consequences of our actions – did the spray you put on your roses kill some honeybees or other flying critters that are pollinators?
Is the systemic pesticide you are putting in the soil or on your plants killing caterpillars that would have turned into beautiful butterflies? Or is it poisoning the fruits that the birds are eating? Or is it killing other critters that birds need for food to feed themselves & their young? Is it killing bees? It has happened, you know, over 50,000 bumblebees were killed in the northwest as a result.
What do you know about systemic pesticides? They kill insects – right? Most last around 90 days but some have longer lives. So when a bee visits your lovely flower, it partakes of death. Who’s going to pollinate the plants when the bees are gone?
Do you think about what you are planting – what effect it has on the environment….or do you plant it because it’s ‘pretty’? Here is Arkansas we are being overrun by the progeny of Bradford pears. What a job the media & landscapers have done in convincing us that Bradford pears are a must have plant. It is really a very poor landscape specimen – weak wood & very susceptible to breakage – but that’s not the worst of it – they are spreading all over the state. The results are a thorny tree that is displacing natives. It is dangerous to get near or attempt to remove – I found one growing on my property not long ago & had my grandson cut it down – one of these thorns went through his boot.
Dr. Douglas Tallamy, chair of the Entomology Dept at the University of Delaware has written a fascinating book – Bringing Nature Home. Dr. Tallamy explains how important insects are in the diets of birds, especially young birds in the nest. Nearly all of the terrestrial bird species in North America reply on insects & spiders to feed their young. It takes plant eating insects to pass on the energy held in plants. Native insects can’t just eat any old plant – they primarily eat plants that have evolved with them & so you don’t find many insects on Chinese privet or Norway maple or Crepe Myrtle or Bradford pear etc.
GARDENING RESPONSIBILITY STARTS AT HOME. DO SOME RESEARCH BEFORE YOU PLANT OR SPRAY.
Submitted By: MaryAnne King, Owner of Pine Ridge Gardens in London, AR
Baxter County Master Gardener Program • University of Arkansas System • Division of Agriculture • © 2013 BCMG