Neonicotinoids (neonics) are a type of systemic pesticide. They have long been used to treat food and horticultural plants to protect them against aphids and other pests. Unfortunately, it was found that the neonics were also coming out in the pollen and nectar of flowering plants.
Bees collect the pollen and nectar and are slowly poisoned. Thankfully, the three worst types of neonics for bees, were banned in 2018 for use on flowering outdoor crops however this didn’t include plants which are being raised in greenhouses, like so many of our garden center plants.
A study by Professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University, found that 70% of the garden plants sold at large supermarkets, DIY shops, and garden centers, contain bee-killing pesticides. This even happens in plants that are labeled with the RHS Perfect for Pollinators label. If the plant was sprayed with the pesticide at a nursery, the neonics will be coming out in the pollen and nectar of that plant for two years!
So what can we do to avoid this? As well as not using any garden chemicals in our gardens, wildlife-friendly gardeners also need to be looking for pesticide-free or organic garden plants. This isn’t as easy as sourcing organic vegetables unfortunately but there are a few wonderful Kentish nurseries and online suppliers now offering organic flowering plants.