From the bean of Green Bean.
UPDATE: I'm thrilled to report that the native plant grower, Suncrest Nursery - a big operation - has announced that it will stop the use of neonictinoids. They did this as a result of my communication with them, which I then shared with my native plant listserve. The resulting hubbub on the listserve - with people calling and writing them, including nursery owners - convinced Suncrest to stop using neonic pesticides. Never think you cannot make a difference!
Last summer, Friends of the Earth came out of with a mind-blowing report that over 50% of "bee-friendly" plants sold by big box stores - Home Depot, Lowes, Orchard Supply Hardware - were pre-treated with neonics, systemic pesticides that stay in the plant and get into surrounding soil and water. All of this is done with no label or other warning to those of us trying to attract, oh I don't know, bees with our newly purchased "bee-friendly" plants. What the hey!?
As much as this report upset me and as much a I shared it on social media, I knew that I was okay. I buy my plants at a small, independent nursery, thank you! Moreover, many of my newer plants are natives. So, all good, you know!
Until I visited that same local nursery last week. Russian sage caught my eye. Nowhere near native but my dad had some and it was blooming like crazy when nothing else was. Score one - or two - for the pollinators because I grabbed not one, but two plants.
Then I headed to the native plant section. I was so happy to see how it has grown over the years. It now takes up several tables. Winning!! I really didn't need anything but I did spy a ceanothus and there is that bare spot and I have been wanting to add another one so, okay, twist my arm. I buy the native plant as well.
I chat it up with the woman at the register, load my plants in the car and head home. And then it hits me.
Might these plants be pre-treated with bee-killing plants? These very plants which I am planting to attract bees, native pollinators, birds. Might I be poisoning them? Even though I bought them from locally owned nursery?
I don't even think about the native plant. I mean seriously. What native plant nursery would use such products. It's like, totally antithetical to native plants. Yeah?
The grower for the Russian Sage, though, is clearly printed on the pots. Monrovia. I start to hyperventilate - kind of. I look them up on the Internet. Nothing re Monrovia and neonicotinoids. Nothing re Monrovia and neonics. Finally, I hit on Monrovia and pesticides. But wouldn't you know it? They are a happy, green nursery, see. I mean, they got this Sustainability Certificate so, like, awesome. My Russian sages and I are all good.
Just to be safe, though, I send them an email and tuck the plants in an out of the way spot. A week later, Monrovia has not responded so I send another email.
In the meantime, I have planted my native plant. Watered it. Felt great about it. Then I start to wonder. Would a native plant nursery pre-treat their plants with bee-killing pesticides too? So I shoot that grower an email asking.
On the same day, I get my answer from both Monrovia and the native plant grower. A big ole YES to both! Both nurseries use neonic pesticides sometimes. Monrovia doesn't think it is a problem because, the science is, like, unsettled. Plus, mites are bad. The native plant nursery wishes they didn't use neonictinoids but they are mindful of the issue. Mindful, see? Like yoga.
Except I am not feeling the mindfulness now. I yank the ceanothus out of the ground. I return my plants back to the nursery with a print out of the Friends of the Earth retail letter and the emails from the two growers. Then, I share the native plant nursery's emailed response with my local Native Plant group. Several members are landscapers and a couple own nurseries that stock plants from this grower. They all get on the phone to their contacts at the grower, delving into the insecticide issue and expressing their displeasure. Guess what!? The native plant nursery responds and is working with group members on alternatives. The Native Plant list is now abuzz with discussion on protecting bees, eliminating pesticides and calling out growers who use systemic pesticides.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
ALL plants sold at ANY nursery - unless certified organic or otherwise labeled that untreated - may be poisoning your backyard paradise. Even if you buy them at your favorite independent, locally owned nursery.
When buying plants ask questions. Contact the grower (often nurseries are unaware of the issue but growers know if they use neonics or not). Voice your disapproval. Seek out neonic-free plants (here and here). Grow from untreated seed or propagate from a friend. Buy organic (which is hard to find beyond edibles). Return treated plants.
Make some noise and save some pollinators!
Feel free to let Monrovia know how you feel by contacting them here. To see actual responses from the Monrovia nursery -cut and pasted onto a post in my blog because I'm so not a techy, please see here.