Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that are used widely on farms, as well as around our homes, schools, and city landscapes. Used to protect against sap-sucking and leaf-chewing insects, neonicotinoids are systemic, which means they are absorbed by the plant tissues and expressed in all parts, including nectar and pollen. Unfortunately, bees, butterflies, and other flower-visiting insects are harmed by the residues. Extremely concerning is the prolific inclusion of these insecticides in home garden products. Home garden products containing neonicotinoids can legally be applied in far greater concentrations in gardens than they can be on farms – sometimes at concentrations as much as 120 times as great which increases the risk to pollinators. As a gardener, you have an unique opportunity to help protect pollinators by avoiding the use of these insecticides, asking your local nursery or garden center if plants have been treated with neonicotinoids, and encouraging your city or park district to use alternatives to neonicotinoids on plants that are visited by bees or are bee-pollinated.
This article from the Fall 2012 issue of Wings Magazine explores the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides in gardens.