Jul 10 2021

How to Avoid “Cigarettes” for Plants and Pollinators

Many gardeners know that pesticides are harmful to the environment and try to
minimize their use, but did you know that many of the plants that you buy come
pretreated with pesticides called neonicotinoids (neonics)?

Neonics are derived from nicotine, and these pesticides contaminate the entire plant for at least 10 years, as well as the soil they are planted in, the water they come in contact with, and the insects and pollinators that feed on them.

According to the Pollinator Posse, plants treated with neonics may be more attractive to
pollinators like bees, which may amplify their harmful ecological impact. Neonics are
considered a primary contributor to the massive decrease in bee and monarch butterfly
populations, along with climate change and habitat loss. Perhaps more alarming,
neonics are also linked to nervous system toxicity and reproductive disorders in

What can you do?
● Buy and plant wildlife-friendly, California native plants.
● When purchasing plants, read the plant label carefully or ask if they have been
treated with neonics. Let proprietors know that you prefer untreated plants. If in
doubt, shop elsewhere. Native plants are typically grown by specialist native
plant nurseries that do not use neonics. Luckily, Inner East Bay gardeners have
several neonic-free native nurseries nearby: East Bay Wilds Native Plant Nursery
in Oakland; Native Here Nursery in Berkeley; Oaktown Native Plant Nursery in
Berkeley; and The Watershed Nursery in Richmond. Ace Garden Center on
Grand Ave carries some (but not all) neonic-free brands and their native plant
section is quite small. Find a more complete list of Bay Area native plant
nurseries here.
● Buy organic produce whenever possible– it is not treated with neonics.
● Recognize that bites out of a plant leaf are a sign of a healthy ecosystem where
plants, pollinators, and other small lifeforms co-exist.

Pesticides are regulated at the federal and state levels. On the federal level, “Saving
America’s Pollinators Act” was introduced in Congress by the U.S. Representatives Earl
Blumenauer (D-OR) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) in June 2021 and would require the
EPA to take action to stop pollinator decline. Several US states and communities have
also instituted regulations. California is currently considering whether to list neonics
under Proposition 65, based on neurodevelopmental and reproductive effects on
humans. The European Union banned the use of outdoor neonics in 2018.

The City of Piedmont follows federal and state regulations and, in 2010, adopted an
integrated pest management (IPM) program that focuses on preventing infestations and
using pesticides only in rare cases (to save a mature native tree, for example) and as a
last resort.

For more information about neonics, check out these resources: the Natural Resources
Defense Council, Beyond Pesticides, and the Environmental Working Group.

By Indira Balkissoon and Marianne Mitosinka of Piedmont Connect

One Response to “How to Avoid “Cigarettes” for Plants and Pollinators”

  1. Many thanks for this useful information!

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