Guide to Bee Friendly Garden Plants

Guide to Bee-friendly Gardens, Plants, and Stores

Making Sure Gardens Are Not “Killing Fields”

Bee populations in Maryland and throughout the world have been dying off in massive numbers since at least 2006, threatening a 1/3 of our food supply that relies on pollination. More than 1,600 scientific studies confirm that neonicotinoid pesticides – “neonics” – are a major cause of the ongoing bee die-off. Maryland’s beekeepers lost 56 % of their hives last year and 61% the year before. Neonic pesticides also have been found to kill certain birds, such as songbirds, as well as pollinating insects such as butterflies and beetles and are also linked to the death of molting blue crabs.

The Maryland Pollinator Protection Act passed in 2016, (going into effect in January 2018) bans the sale of neonic-containing pest management products for consumer home and garden use.

You can take action to protect our bees and other pollinators!  Here’s how…

1. Consider using organic products sold at most garden centers. Many pesticides are linked to adverse impacts on the health of people, wildlife and the Bay. Organic products for homeowner use can be as effective as chemical pesticide products.

2. At your local garden supply or nursery store, look for and purchase only, seeds and plants that are clearly labeled as free of neonicotinoid pesticides. A 2014 study “Gardeners Beware” report by Friends of the Earth found that just over half of the garden plant samples sold as “bee-friendly” tested in 18 US and Canadian cities were contaminated with neonics. Purchasing organic seeds are your safest bet.
Download the Bee-friendly Retailer Scorecard to find stores in your area.

3.If you cannot find neonic-free seeds and plants, let the store manager know you want to buy seeds and plants that are confirmed to be bee-friendly and can they please check with their suppliers as to which plants were/weren’t treated with neonics in their seed stage and/or sprayed with neonic products later on. Neonics are systemic pesticides. Often the seeds are treated and then the pesticide permeates the entire plant thereby becoming toxic for bees. If the garden center is unable to identify which plants are neonic–free, consider going to nurseries that do.

For a list of retailers selling neonic-free plants and seeds, read about retailer commitments on pesticides and pollinator health.

Of note: BJ’s Wholesale Club and Home Depot label the neonic-treated plants they sell. While the Home Depot label makes it sound like neonics are a good thing, it does provide the consumer right-to-know. Costco discourages its suppliers’ use of neonics on pollinator-attractive plants and encourages use of eco-friendly methods of pest and disease control. Walmart’s growers have eliminated neonics from approximately 80 percent of its garden plants. True Value is working with its growing partners to remove neonics from its plants. Many local garden stores are doing the same

See for a list of neonic pesticides.

Learn more about pesticides and their impact on bees here.