bee upside downBees and other pollinators, essential for the two-thirds of the food crops humans eat everyday, are in great peril, and populations are dwindling worldwide.

Pests, diseases, loss of forage and habitat and changing climate have all been identified as possible contributing factors to global bee losses. However, a growing body of science has implicated the world’s most widely-used pesticides, neonicotinoids (also called neonics) made by giant chemical companies Bayer and Syngenta, as a key factor in recent global bee die-offs.

But neonics aren’t just used in agriculture — as our pilot study shows, unbeknownst to consumers, many “bee friendly” garden plants sold at home garden centers have been pre-treated with these bee killing pesticides which can contaminate their gardens and keep harming bees and other pollinators for months to years.

The European Union suspended the use of three neonic pesticides in December 2013, after a scientific review by European Food Safety Authority found that neonicotinoids pose an unacceptably high risk to bees. In addition, the UK’s largest garden retailers, including Homebase, B&Q and Wickes, have already stopped selling neonics. Unfortunately, despite mounting evidence linking neonics to bee declines, and more than a million public comments urging swift protections for bees, the EPA has delayed action until 2018.

Getting involved

Friends of the Earth Action supports our sister group Friends of the Earth’s on-the-ground efforts to put pressure on the Obama administration and garden centers to restrict neonicotinoids.

In February 2014, Friends of the Earth and allies organized the National Swarm to Save Bees. Activists across the country delivered valentines and more than half a million petition signatures to Home Depot and Lowe’s asking these companies to stop selling bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides and garden plants pre-treated with these pesticides, making it the largest coordinated action to save bees in North America to date.

In October 2014, Friends of the Earth renewed the call by joining with allies, across the U.S. and Canada in visiting our local Lowe’s stores on the week of Halloween. Together, an estimated 30,000 people asked the retailer not to be a “little shop of horrors” for bees.