UK’s largest garden centres saying no to bee-harming pesticides

The majority of the largest UK garden retailers and garden centres don’t want the flowering plants they sell to be grown with bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides and have told suppliers not to use them, a survey conducted by Friends of the Earth has revealed.

However, one of the biggest garden retailers – Homebase – has yet to commit to working with suppliers to end the use of restricted neonicotinoids, despite being contacted by thousands of people via a Friends of the Earth online action.

The survey follows research by leading bee scientist Professor Dave Goulson, published earlier this summer, which revealed that 70% of the plants tested from a number of stores contained neonicotinoid pesticides – including three pesticides restricted across Europe that have been found to pose a ‘high acute risk’ to honeybees.

One of the retailers saying no to neonicotinoids is the UK’s biggest garden centre chain, Wyevale. It was urged to act on the chemicals earlier this year by over 18,000 Friends of the Earth supporters via an online action after tests revealed that they were selling plants containing neonicotinoids.

Wyevale has now confirmed with Friends of the Earth that it does not want the three restricted neonicotinoids in its garden plants, stating: “We will be working harder to seek the… removal of the three European banned neonics from the complete supply chain during 2018.”

Earlier this year, B&Q became the first retailer to announce that it was banning suppliers from using all neonicotinoid pesticides in its flowering plant range from early next year, Friends of the Earth adds.

A Friends of the Earth YouGov poll published in May 2017 found that over three quarters of the British public (78%) agree that garden centres and retailers should not sell plants grown with pesticides that are harmful to bees.

Friends of the Earth has now handed in a petition signed by over 33,000 people, urging the government to support a permanent, comprehensive ban on all bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides.

Friends of the Earth bee campaigner Nick Rau said: “We’re delighted that leading garden retailers are responding to public concern and mounting scientific evidence by saying ‘no’ to plants grown with bee-harming chemicals.

“We’re particularly pleased the UK’s biggest garden centre Wyevale has listened to the thousands of people who contacted them and has pledged to work harder to ensure the removal of restricted neonicotinoids from its supply chain.

“We now urge Homebase to follow suit and reject these chemicals too.

“People up and down the country have been creating pollinator-friendly gardens – they need to be confident that the plants they buy are not going to harm Britain’s bees. The UK government must also act on neonicotinoids by backing a full and permanent EU ban on these chemicals across Europe – and pledging to keep any restrictions post-Brexit.”

Bee expert Professor Dave Goulson – who carried out research published earlier this year into pesticides in garden plants – said: “There is currently lots of interest in making our gardens into havens for bees and other wildlife, which is fantastic. Hence we were very sad to discover that most of the pretty flowers marketed as ‘bee-friendly’ by garden centres, and bought by well-meaning people with their hard-earned cash, actually contain significant concentrations of highly potent insecticides.

“It is great to see many garden centres responding positively to our research by moving to ban neonicotinoids. Hopefully we can soon reach a point where ‘bee-friendly’ plants are completely free of insecticides.”