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Is Your Local Nursery Contributing to Honeybee Deaths?

Originally posted at Top-Bar-Beehives.com:

Over the years, I have greatly enjoyed visiting local and regional nurseries and have often happily left with a back seat full of potted plants, tree and shrubs.  As a permaculuturalist, nurseries have allowed my family to introduce new plant species into our gardens, which we have believed were both good for us and the  creatures that visit them, including honeybees and other pollinators.  In preparation for interviews on the Following the Honey Trail tour, I have been researching the toxic affects of pesticides/insecticides and have realized that some of those nursery plants may not be great for the animals and insects that visit them throughout the season.

Dandelion Visit at TheresasFor someone like Steve Ellis of Old Mill Honey Co, who is currently suing the EPA over pesticide regulations, a new class of insecticides called neonicotinoids are believed to be a contributing factor to the loss of thousands of his honeybees.  According to Beyond Pesticides, a Washington-based non-profit focused on creating a world free to toxic pesticides, neonicotinoids “affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and death. They include imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam…” and “can also be persistent in the environment, and when used as seed treatments, translocate to residues in pollen and nectar of treated plants.”  In Steve’s case, many of his hives have been found abandoned by the bees and the ones that remain seem to be disoriented, paralyzed and unable to gather nectar effectively, raising major concerns.

Similarly, as reported yesterday on the BoulderCountyBeekeepers,org, Jim Doan of New York recently closed his family’s beekeeping business because pesticides have killed around 5000 of his hives.  In his email to Tom Theobald, founding member of the Boulder County Beekeepers’ Association, Jim states, “I am done. I can not continue. Sold my farm 2 weeks ago, I am giving up, there is no hope here,” illustrating the impact pesticides are having on beekeepers.  Today, Wednesday June 5th, Jim will be discussing his decision on The Organic View Radio Station at 10am (Colorado time).

While the European Union has banned some Neonicotinoid pesticides, the US continues to promote neonicotinods which are now widely used in agricultural and are being heavily used in residential homes and gardens.

Last night at the Lake Superior Beekeepers – Duluth meeting, it was brought to my attention that neonicotinoids are currently being used in local greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries.  While I would expect these chemicals to be used at the big box stores, the realization that these chemicals are being used at local, family-owned, stores highlights the severity of this current problem.

While many of us (including myself) believe we are doing the right thing when we buy a fruit tree or perennial herb from our “local” nursery, we may actually be making our “organic” gardens MORE toxic and deadly to pollinators, including honeybees.  In Duluth, MN there may be two (out of dozens) of nurseries not using neonicotinoids, meaning that most plants being planted this Spring are poisonous, even once they are gone (since the toxins can leach into the ground and transfer to plants planted next year).

Current work is being done in Duluth to stop local greenhouses and nurseries from using neonicotinods and soon there will be a list of Bee Friendly places to buy plants from, where toxins are not being used.  In the meantime, and in places outside of Duluth, communities should begin to question local plant growers in order to find out more about the chemicals they are using so we can become more informed as beekeepers, gardeners and community members.

We cannot afford to poison the land, plants and animals/insects that are vital to our, shared, survival here on Earth.  Stop buying toxic plants,  propagate and  save your GMO/chemical-free seeds, and support small scale growers that are working to make our human and honeybee communities healthier and more sustainable.

We will be writing a lot more about this topic here at Top-Bar-Beehives.com.  In the meantime, please check out the Xerces Society’s list of Neonicotinoid Garden Products Used in the United States to make sure that you are not contributing to the deaths of honeybees!