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How Backyard Gardens Might be Killing Bees

Jun 25, 2014 12:49 PM EDT

Bee friendly "organic" gardens with plenty to pollinate may still be harming hives, researchers suggest. Plants bought at chain garden and home improvement stores were found to be laden with pesticides prior to being shelved, according to a new study.

The study "Gardeners Beware 2014" found that nearly 51 percent of garden plants purchased at big-name retailers in 18 cities in the United States and Canada contain neonicotinoid - a pesticide that has been frequently tied by experts to bee population decline.

Last month, Nature World News reported that one of the most comprehensive independent studies yet, published in the Bulletin of Insectology, had linked a pair of neonicotinoids (neonics) to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) - a mysterious behavior that leads to the mass death of entire honeybee colonies during winter months.

The US National Pesticide Information Center has also previously listed these same pesticides as a potential cause of CCD, based on the findings of previous studies.

Now this latest study, funded and launched as part of the Friends of the Earth Bee Action Campaign, shows that these potentially harmful pesticides can be present in even organic pesticide-free gardens if purchased at a Lowes, Home Depot or Wal-Mart.

"Our data indicate that many plants sold in nurseries and garden stores across the US and Canada are being pre-treated with systemic neonicotinoid insecticides, making them potentially toxic to pollinators," Timothy Brown of the Pesticide Research Institute and co-author of the report said in a statement. "Unfortunately, these pesticides don't break down quickly so these plants could be toxic to bees for years to come."

Thankfully, not all retailers are turning a blind eye to this problem. BJ's Wholesale Club is one big-name vendor that is taking initiative to remove neonics from their garden plants and stores, and labeling the few plants that cannot remain untreated. The company personally contacted Friends of the Earth to inform them of this decision after a smaller-scale version of this neonic study was published last August.

Meanwhile, President Obama announced the White House's commitment to saving the honeybee population last Friday, introducing the mission of the Pollinator Health Task Force.

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