Shopping for pollinator-safe plants can feel like a dicey experience. We think, “Oh, that one is so beautiful, and it attracts pollinators! But wait, does it contain pesticides that might linger in the plant, putting my bees and butterflies at risk?”
We worry because even plants well known for their pollinator value, like milkweed, can be contaminated with pesticides. In fact, a recent study found that milkweeds purchased from retail nursery stores across the U.S. all contained pesticides—yes, every single one of the 235 milkweeds tested from 33 stores.
Pesticides used in the nursery can linger in plants, putting foraging pollinators and other insects at risk once in your garden. And while many people focus on finding neonicotinoid-free plants, other insecticides and fungicides used by nurseries can also be risky to bees and butterflies. Use of some of these chemicals, often regarded as effective substitutes for neonics, are even on the rise.
So while it’s good to look for neonicotinoid-free plants, it’s even better to try to find plants that were grown organically. While organically approved pesticides can also be toxic to beneficial insects, organic pesticides are generally short-lived and won’t last long in your plants.
Ultimately, to really understand if nurseries are avoiding a broader suite of risky pesticides, it takes a conversation, and that can be intimidating.
That’s why we’ve created a series of short videos to show you how! If you’d like to be part of the solution but don’t know where to start, we encourage you to start here!
Why it’s important to buy pollinator-safe plants
How to approach nursery staff
What to ask
How to respond to what you hear
Learn more and get involved
- Follow Xerces on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to see new videos as they are posted
- Learn more about bee-safe nursery plants
- Read our fact sheet about buying bee-safe plants
- Download a copy of Offering Bee-Safe Plants: A Guide for Nurseries to share with your local plant sellers
- When you’ve talked with your nursery, add your outreach to our map!