More Nurseries Support Pollinators

More and more local stores are committing to sell bee-friendly plants, untreated by a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. Pollinators feeding on neonic-contaminated pollen or nectar can experience toxic effects at very low doses, so it’s critical to know how a flowering plant was grown before adding it to your yard.


NCAP is working to highlight responsible practices and support companies that have adopted neonic-free policies to protect pollinators. See a recently updated list here of bee-friendly nurseries in Washington and Oregon, with over 40 wholesale and retail locations. 

Use of systemic bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides1 is in the public spotlight, and has been identified as one of the contributors to bee health issues.2 Flowering ornamental plants, shrubs and trees are one source of exposure. A 2014 study investigating plants sold at garden centers found that more than half of sampled “bee-friendly” plants contained neonicotinoid pesticides at levels with the potential to harm or kill bees.3 Concerted action by major retailers has started to reverse this trend.4 

According to a recent study published by Michigan State Extension, consumers are interested in buying bee-friendly plants, and are willing to pay more for these.  A recent National Gardening Association survey also found that more than 90% of households want to manage their lawns and gardens in an environmentally friendly way, choosing eco-friendly products over those with toxic chemicals.

According to a ‘report card’ from Friends of the Earth, 80 percent of Americans support eliminating bee-killing pesticides from agriculture. You can read more about this report and scorecard here:

There is a growing demand for neonicotinoid-free plants and seeds, and a growing number of retailers working to provide neonic-free plants. Many are also discontinuing the sale of neonicotinoid-containing products.

  • Multiple municipalities in the Northwest, including Thurston County in Washington, and the cities of Eugene, Portland, Cannon Beach, Seattle, Spokane, and Milwaukie have banned or restricted the use of neonicotinoids on public property, including planting ornamentals grown with neonicotinoids.

  • Beyond our region, twenty-four U.S. cities have instituted a ban or restrictions on neonics, including the cities of Minneapolis and Sacramento.  In addition, the European Union, the city of Vancouver, B.C., and the province of Ontario have all enacted restrictions.  

  • Home Depot, the world’s largest home-improvement chain, announced that it has removed neonicotinoid pesticides from 80 percent of its flowering plants to date, and that it will complete its phase-out in plants by 2018. 

  • Lowe’s, the country’s second largest home improvement retailer, agreed to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides on all plants and off-the-shelf products by spring 2019.

  • BJ's Wholesale Club, a retailer in 15 states, required vendors to remove neonicotinoids from plants by the end of 2014 and/or require warning labels for neonicotinoid-treated plants.

  • According to Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 State Of The Industry Survey in which 255 growers responded, a large number of growers are eliminating the use of neonicotinoids in production. 

NCAP is supporting nurseries and retailers as they end their reliance on neonics and we are providing educational opportunities for effective alternatives. Consider supporting these responsible businesses when you make your purchases for your garden or property this spring.


[1]  Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides that, regardless of application method (spray,drip irrigation, granular spreading, or seed coating), once taken into the plant, migrate into all parts, including flowers, pollen, and nectar. Active ingredients include imidicloprid, dinotefuran, thiamethoxam, acetamiprid, clothianidin, nitenpyram, and thiocloprid. Major trade names include: Admire®, Acceleron®, Axcess®, Attendant®, Belay®, Cruiser®, Gaucho®, Nitro Shield®,Poncho®, and Trimax Pro®.

[2] Johnson, R. and Corn, M.L. 2015. Bee Health: The Role of Pesticides Congressional Research Service. February 17, 2015.

[3] Friends of the Earth 2014. Gardeners Beware: Bee-Toxic Pesticides found in “Bee-Friendly Plants sold at Garden Centers Across the U.S. and Canada.