Lowe's to Stop Selling Bee-Killing Plants

Neonics, pesticides shown to be deadly to bees, will be gone from Lowe's by 2019. Continue reading →

Lowe's, the home improvement store, late last week committed to eliminate bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides from its stores by 2019.

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are essentially nerve agents, in the same class as nicotine. Plants absorb the chemicals into their cells, making every part of the plant - even the fruit - toxic to insects.

Home improvement stores like Lowe's and Home Depot sell the plants that many of us put in our gardens, feeling good that we're helping the birds and the bees. But those plants are raised from seeds treated with neonics, meaning that they're actually poisonous to the insects we're trying to help.

From the Lowe's press release:

Following studies that say many factors, including neonicotinoid pesticides, could potentially damage the health of pollinators, Lowe's has committed to take several steps to support pollinator health. Lowe's will phase out the sale of products that contain neonic pesticides within 48 months as suitable alternatives become commercially available. Lowe's will include greater organic and non-neonic product selections, work with growers to eliminate the use of neonic pesticides on bee-attractive plants it sells and educate customers and employees through in-store and online resources.

Neonics were adopted in the early 1990s because they worked well and were thought to be safer than evil DDT. And for humans, as far as we know, neonics are safer.

But a 2014 report by Friends of the Earth found that at least half of plants bought at big home improvement stores contained neonics, which have been found to be deadly to bees and other insects.

Some scientists believe that the pesticides' effects on bees is a warning sign that the chemicals may also pose health issues for people.

Lisa Archer, Food & Technology Program Director at Friends of the Earth, said in a FOE press release: "We are pleased Lowe's is listening to consumer concerns and to the growing body of science telling us we need to move away from bee-toxic pesticides by taking steps to be part of the solution to the bee crisis.

"Bees are canaries in the coalmine for our food system and everyone, including the business community, must act fast to protect them."

If you're looking to help the bees in your hood, consider adding some native flowering plants to your garden. "Think of the flowers your grandmother used in her garden as a practical guide, especially when using nonnative plants," advises a USDA report. "The pollinators will thank you." Looking for some ideas? Check out these flowering plants that can help give bees a boost.

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Crocus are a good choice to attract bees in the early spring. They're also pollinated by butterflies.

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Asters are perennials that provide nectar and pollen, and do well when planted in late summer and fall.

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Geraniums are another pollinator-friendly perennial.

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The Calendula is an annual that's sometimes called a pot marigold.

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Cleome are annuals that are native to the western United States, and they provide pollen in summer to bees.

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Bees loves sunflowers and sometimes even stop on them to catch a few zzzzs.

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Cut flowers, including zinnia (above), celosia, ageratum and wildflowers like goldenrod are bumble bee magnets. So are herbs including lavendar, anise hyssop, motherwort, basil and sage. Want to see more flowers -- and herbs to help bees? Check out this

cool illustration

from American Bee Journal.