68 Garden Pesticides to Avoid in Order to Help the Bees

CC BY 2.0. Jon Sullivan

These insect-killing chemicals spell doom for important pollinators.

Man versus insect. It’s a story that has been playing out forever, at least since humans and bugs first started competing for the same plants. But when man went to the lab and created synthetic pesticides, we gained the advantage ... yet is the collateral damage worth the victory? The toxins released into the environment alone are enough to cause alarm. But the harm done to beneficial insects – namely the pollinators – is not only alarming but cause for concern. Honeybees, one of our most important allies in agriculture, our suffering from years of decline. Pesticides – these are chemicals meant to kill insects, after all – are decidedly not helping.

Without pollinators, we’re doomed.

"Pollinators are a critical link in our food system. More than 85 percent of earth's plant species – many of which compose some of the most nutritional parts of our diet – require pollinators to exist. Yet we continue to see alarming declines in bee numbers," said Eric Mader, assistant pollinator conservation director at the Xerces Society.

So what are we to do?

One of the best ways we can help support thriving hives and protect pollinators is to provide plentiful foraging by way of gardens that offer nectar, pollen and habitat. But just as important is that we decline the use of pesticides when we grow things, according to Beyond Pesticides, the nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. that has been fighting the fight since 1981.

The most commonly used insecticides in home gardens – and farms and school yards, parks and urban landscapes – are a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids. As the Xerces Society explains, these chemicals are used to kill sap-sucking and leaf-chewing insects; they are systemic, meaning they are absorbed by the plant tissues and expressed in all parts, including nectar and pollen. Bees, butterflies, and other flower-hopping insects are harmed by the residues; even at low doses, honey bees’ ability to navigate, fly and forage is affected. What is most worrisome is the, “prolific inclusion of these insecticides in home garden products,” notes the Xerces Society. “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.”

To keep your lawn and garden happy, healthy, and teeming with life for pollinators, they say, you should avoid the products that contain neonicotinoids – look for members of the neonicotinoid family on the labels: acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam.

And with that in mind, a few years ago Beyond Pesticides put together an important list of 68 common home and garden products that contain neonicotoids. Help save the bees by not using chemicals meant to kill insects in your garden! If not for their sake – which should be reason alone – then for the sake of our food supply.