Bay Journal

Whitney Pipkin writes at the intersection of food, agriculture and the environment from her home base in Northern Virginia. Her work for the Bay Journal often focuses on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, and she is a fellow of the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Home Depot to limit pesticides on plants by year’s end

  • July 03, 2014
One of the many bees I found enjoying my flowering clover last week in Alexandria, Va. (Whitney Pipkin)

There’s a lot of buzz about bees right now. From the president to a handful of national retailers, new programs are exploring how to better protect these key pollinators for not only your flowerbed but also for about every third bite of food we eat each day.

And what’s good for bees — a more thoughtful, judicious use of pesticides in the region, for one — is often good for the Chesapeake Bay as well.

Just this week, Home Depot and other U.S. retailers announced that they are working to eliminate or limit the use of a type of pesticide suspected of contributing to dramatic declines in honeybee populations in the country: neonicotinoids or neonics for short.

Home Depot will require its suppliers to start labeling any plants treated with neonics by the fourth quarter of this year. The company is also running tests to see if suppliers can eliminate neonics in their plant production without hurting plant health.

This comes after a recent study found that many of the flowers gardeners are encouraged to plant to boost bee populations that not only contain these pesticides when purchased from a store but they can actually harm the bees who try to pollinate them.

The Gardeners Beware 2014 study showed that more than half of the 71 garden plant samples purchased at top garden retailers in 18 cities contained neonic pesticides. A store in Cockeysville, MD., was among those included in the study, according to the Maryland Pesticide Network.
Mdpestnet.org

BJ’s Wholesale Club, with 200 stores on the East Coast, said it would also look into labeling plants free of neonics by the end of the year. Other retailers are expected to follow suit.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the total loss of managed honeybee colonies — like the ones that are shipped from state to state to pollinate local crops — was 23 percent over the winter of 2013-14. That’s part of what prompted the White House in late June to announce a new taskforce that will study how to reverse the country’s honeybee decline.

The White House’s announcement barely mentioned neonics as one of many pesticides it has charged the EPA with studying to determine its impact on pollinators.

It said that honeybee pollination alone adds more then $15 billion in value to agricultural crops in the United States each year. That’s not including the pollination legwork of native bees or of other insects like the monarch butterfly, which recorded its lowest population level in 2013-14.

Scientists believe that bee losses are likely caused by a combination of stressors: poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity and exposure to pesticides, the White House announcement said.

The front page of The Washington Post’s Health and Science section a couple weeks ago featured an enthralling graphic on honeybees, including how they function, what threatens them and why the president is talking about them.

Its sidenote that flowering clover is a draw for bees made me feel less guilty about the lawn not getting mowed right away and the white flowers that, as I looked out my window, had begun to cover it. Later that day, while working outside, I took a closer look at the clover and saw it was abuzz with pollinators. There were probably four bees in the square foot of grass just in front of me (see photo).

Then I thought about my latest trip to Home Depot, where I bought a few flowering plants for some pots and chatted with the worker about weed control. He quickly recommended their strongest weed killer, and I explained why I wasn’t interested in dousing my yard with RoundUp (water quality being one reason, my dog’s affinity for grass being another).

A few weeks later at the D.C. Green Festival, I was given a propane-fueled weed scorcher, allowing me to apply a blue flame — instead of weed killer — to the unwanted plants sprouting on my patio. By the next day, the scorched plants are easy to pull from the root. (And the sucker is fun to use!)

So if you’re thinking of sprucing up the yard for a 4th of July party, as we are, think twice about how the chemicals you use might impact the following: bees, the Bay and babies (for good measure).

Have a happy holiday weekend!

  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
About Whitney Pipkin
Whitney Pipkin writes at the intersection of food, agriculture and the environment from her home base in Northern Virginia. Her work for the Bay Journal often focuses on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, and she is a fellow of the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Read more articles by Whitney Pipkin

Comments

By submitting a comment, you are consenting to these Rules of Conduct. Thank you for your civil participation. Please note: reader comments do not represent the position of Chesapeake Media Service.

Comments are now closed for this article. Comments are accepted for 60 days after publication.

Copyright ©2017 Bay Journal / Bay Journal Media / Advertise with Us

Terms of use | Privacy Policy