This spring I delved into gardening with a vengeance. As always, native plants were chosen due to their lower water and maintenance requirements, and ability to attract desirable wildlife.

Additional coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), purple poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrate) and Missouri primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) gardens have all been expanded, and other plants have been added, too. Our gardens have flourished looking the best they ever have.

What I have noticed is that very few honeybees come to these pollen-heavy flowers. I imagined with hundreds of open-faced flowers that I would have tons of butterflies this year. While the butterfly crop has increased, I still only see one or two at a time. Surprising for the number of flowers available.

After some research, I have discovered that many stores are using seeds and plants that are treated with pesticides that are harmful to pollinators, especially honey bees. While the pesticides do not actually kill bees they weaken the bees and the whole hive.

A new publication, A Guidance for Assessing Pesticide Risks to Bees, was just released on June 19, 2014, by the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to this publication, seeds treated with systemic pesticides result in the translocation of the pesticide to the pollen, nectar, exudates (fluids), and honey dew which foraging bees pick up and bring back to the hive. This results in, “…reduced colony strength and survival, reduced queen fecundity [fertility] and brood success, reduced individual survival and behavior changes.” All of these changes contribute to, “…reduced honey, wax…and reduced species richness and abundance.” In other words, seeds treated with pesticides are slowly killing off hives.

Ralph Maughan, professor emeritus at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics in his article, “Pesticides, Honeybees, and Native Pollinators”, on July 26, 2014, in The Wildlife News, wrote that neonicotinoids, a new type of pesticide derived from nicotine harm, “most insects, including neutral and beneficial insects along with the pests.”

Maughan writes, “Neonics kill or weaken insects that prey on or are parasitic to other insects, thus disrupting biological controls, both intentional control and naturally occurring controls.” This includes ladybugs that eat aphids. “Pollen and plant nectars are problems. Bees, butterflies, and other harmless or beneficials that drink or eat these would succumb.” You would think that plants that are grown for wildlife consumption would not contain these poisons, not so – neonic seed coats are even used for sunflowers!

Friends of the Earth report from their new study that they tested “bee-friendly” garden plants from Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot in 18 cities across the United States and Canada and found more than half contained neonic pesticides. Home Depot stated that they are working to address concerns regarding neonics, but Lowe’s and Walmart have not responded.

Gardening is a wonderful way to de-stress, landscape to conserve water, attract desirable wildlife, increase home value, and beautify your yard and community. However, it should not be a killer to bees or other beneficial insects. Look for plants that are marked, “not grown or containing neonicotinoids”, allow plants to re-seed on their own, and buy plants from native plant nurseries that do not use seeds and plants that use GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and/or pesticide coated seeds or plants. It’s the GREEN thing to do!


These nurseries offer Missouri genotypes (plants and seeds from Missouri native plants) and they package their shipping well:

• Missouri Wildflower Nursery

• Hamilton Nursery  

Reach Lynn Youngblood at