Behnke’s To Avoid Neonicotinoids!

Bumble bees love native plants.


I would like to officially salute Behnke’s Nurseries in Maryland for making a bold statement on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides.  This is a great first step toward going neonicotinoid-free.

Although I have always known that the plants I bought from nurseries were likely to be treated with some kind of chemical, I used to assume that as long as I tended my plants in an organic way at home it would all be okay for the creatures in my own garden.  When I began to work on a book about  backyard beekeepers, however, I realized this was not the case.

Sadly, a study done last summer found that many of the commercial growers that sell their plants via wholesale to nurseries are treating their plants with neonicotinoid pesticides – those systemic chemicals that can turn any plant deadly to insects that suck on the plants’ stems, or eat the plants’ leaves.  There is scientific evidence that the floral resources – the nectar and the pollen of the treated plants – also become toxic to bees and other pollinators.

(To learn more of this grim news or to see the science see: What’s Killing theBees? ).  The impact of these chemicals can last an entire season or even several years.  

Now Behnke’s Nurseries have taken a stand against the neonicotinoids.

You can read their full statement here:

I am tremendously proud of this local nursery and so very appreciative that they are making an effort to give gardeners in the DC Metro area a place to find plants that are truly pollinator-friendly.

Some aspects of this statement that I find especially strong:

-the store has pledged to stop selling neonicotinoids

-the store is prepared to give buying preference to growers who are neonicotinoid-free

-the store is not going to use neonicotinoids on plants they have in stock

I know that this is going to be tough for this little nursery. They are a locally-owned family business and they have to compete with a lot of big box stores where sprayed plants may look tempting to some shoppers.

But at the same time, Behnke’s has  now gained a whole lot of free publicity, from the likes of me and all the other local bloggers and social-media-loving gardeners in DC!  I only hope that more nurseries around my city and around the US will do the same.

I would love to see statements like this from other nurseries.  I would gladly publicize them on this blog.

I do know that several nurseries in Minnesota have taken a similar stand against using these chemicals for purely cosmetic reasons.

Many retailers in the UK also voluntarily pulled the neonicotinoids from their shelves before a ban of some neonicotinoids was announced in the EU in the spring of 2013.

Here is what I would like all plant nurseries big and small to realize:  By taking a stand against these chemicals, Behnke’s has just done something huge to win me over and bring me back as a customer.  I used to spend a lot of money every year on plants and garden supplies.  But as of last winter I stopped buying plants from any local supplier who wasn’t certified organic because I wanted to avoid neonicotinoids.  I seed swapped, and traded plants and avoided coming to your stores COMPLETELY because it broke my heart not to buy new plants.

So if these stores want to lure in serious gardeners like me, they ought to pay attention to what we want: plants that will not harm our bees, butterflies, beetles and other pollinators.

Because what is the freaking point of having a garden if all you do is lure in these important creatures and kill them with toxic plants??????




4 Thoughts on “Behnke’s To Avoid Neonicotinoids!

  1. Ken Schmidt on November 14, 2015 at 9:43 pm said:

    Is there a list of local/Mid-Atlantic nurseries that are following this practice? I am a landscape architect, and this bold step is in the right direction and much needed. Kudos to your nursery!

    • Alison Gillespie on November 16, 2015 at 10:51 am said:

      There is no such list for this region yet, although I know that some gardeners and nature lovers in Boston created one for that area. I have wanted to create one very badly! It is needed. There are several nurseries now that have said they are not using neonics… It would be nice to throw them some positive attention for this move. But putting the list together and maintaining it would be quite a job and one that I don’t have time for right now. If someone makes one, let’s all be sure to publicize it. And I think you maybe meant kudos to Behnke’s. And I agree!

  2. Pingback: Is Your Local Garden Center Taking Action on Neonicotinoids? | Garden Rant

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