The Big Picture On Neonicotinoids

Are The Plants You Buy Toxic To Bees?

Most avid gardeners that I know don’t use gloves because one of the joys of gardening is feeling the earth, smelling the soil and touching the roots of the plants. As a Master Gardener, I was horrified to learn that the tulips, flowers, trees, shrubs,etc. may have been treated with the very pesticides that are killing our pollinators. Although I garden organically, I had no idea that I was exposed because it was not mandatory to label plants that are treated with these chemicals as such. I first learned about this during a conversation with organic tulip grower, Jeroen Koenen back in 2012, who later was featured in an interview titled, Hidden Dangers of Systemic Pesticides on Tulips & Bulbs on The Organic View Radio Show, to discuss this very issue. I was also horrified at the thought that there have been countless children that I know who have worked with the earth without gloves. What the human health impact will be, I do not know. No one does because we have no research to explore the consequences to date.

Please Ban Neonicotinoids Theyre everywhere bees want to be June Stoyer

How Ubiquitous Are Neonicotinoids?

When I asked bee advocate, Graham White, about the ubiquitous nature of neonicotinoids and if they were strictly an agricultural concern he explained, “it’s not just American farmland. Friends of the Earth did a study of the plants and flowers being sold in Lower’s, Home Depot and other supermarket chains. They found that over 60% of the plants on sale were already pre-treated with neonicotinoids. The tulips, the geraniums, the petunias that you buy in the supermarket were treated when they were planted as seeds with neonicotinoids.

Are your tulips toxic to bees?

Unsuspecting gardeners buy bulbs that are treated with neonicotinoids.

Innocent people buy them and take them home to their gardens completely unaware that those plants will kill every bee and butterfly that comes into their garden. They’re also being encouraged to apply neonicotinoids in the house as termite treatment, and treatment against bugs of various kinds and even on dogs. They are applied to  dogs as flea treatments and so on. So, it is literally everywhere, said White.

Friends of the Earth also reported that Home Depot, BJ’s and other retailers have announced that they will take action on bee-killing pesticides. If you are planning for the 2015 garden season, it is recommended that you make your purchases after the labeling changes have been made so that you do not introduce more neonicotinoids into your garden or yard.

Bee Education Or PR Spin For Neonicotinoids?

Dutch toxicologist, Dr. Henk Tennekes was the first scientist to blow the whistle on the impact of neonicotioids on our environment. Then in 2010, he described the devastation in his best-selling book, The Systemic Pesticides: A Disaster In The Making. Since then numerous scientific papers have been published by world-renowned scientists further proving the catastrophic effects of neonicotinoids on bees, birds, amphibians,etc. However, there seems to be a great deal of effort by industry to negate what has already been scientifically proven. Is this a matter of education or simply a case of PR spin about neonicotinoids?

White further explained, “it never was a scientific debate. The people who manufactured these poisons knew in 1992-1994 that they were unleashing a tsunami of poison upon the world. They knew they were not going to win the argument in scientific debate. They were going to win the argument by public relations, by propaganda, by bribery by power and influence. That’s what they’ve done! Their reaction to this massive new wave of new studies which proves that they’ve behaved abominably is just to ignore it.

Bayer CropScience working to educate children about bees. Photo: Flickr

Bayer CropScience working to educate children about bees. Photo: Flickr

Syngenta and Bayer both have road shows which are going around America giving out fuzzy bumblebee dolls to little children telling everyone how much they love the bees. They are not even attempting to answer these scientific studies from all over the world because it’s never really been about the science, it has always been about public relations.”

Is America Drenched In Neonicotinoids?

Most people are familiar with the toxic impact of DDT. It is basically the hallmark of chemicals regarding toxic impact on human health and environmental health. However, not many people can comprehend the vast exposure we have had when it comes to neonicotinoids. If you consider the annual usage over the last several years, the reality is tremendous.

When I spoke to beekeeper, Tom Theobald, he had a very startling comparison which demonstrated just how much exposure we have had to neonicotinoids.

17.5 billion of DDT


According to Theobald, “America used 3.4 million pounds of neonicotinoids in 2009. I also looked up the maximum usage of DDT and that occurred in 1959. That was 80 million pounds. We are told repeatedly that the introduction of  genetically modified crops and systemic pesticides has resulted in a decrease in the amount of pesticides that are being applied to American farmland. On the face of it, that’s not correct! Dr Chuck Benbrook, from the University of Washington has shown that since the introduction of genetically modified crops, pesticide usage has actually increased by 500 million pounds. But I wanted to look at the toxicity because I think by reporting poundage, what they are doing is misleading us. They have to know they are doing this.

The neonicotinoids are 5,000 to10,000 times more toxic than DDT. So, what I did was I took that 3.4 million pounds, multiplied it times 5,000, which is a conservative estimate of the toxicity of these neonicotinoids.  Those 3.4 million pounds have the toxic equivalent of 17.5 billion pounds of DDT! The peak usage of DDT was in 1959; 80 million pounds! We are now drenching American farmland with the equivalent of 17.5 billion pounds of DDT!”

Listen To The Interview

In this segment of The Organic View Radio Show, host, June Stoyer talks to author and environmental advocate, Graham White and beekeeper, Tom Theobald, about The Big Picture On Neonicotinoids. To listen to the interview, please click the play button on the video below.

13 thoughts on “The Big Picture On Neonicotinoids

  1. Yes, people are aware of DDT but will it take that kind of catastrophic effect for the public to recognize what neonicotinoids do?

  2. So, what are they waiting for to do the human health impact study? Oh, yeah! That would interfere with profits! Silly me!

  3. June, this interview is informative and educational. Thank you for focusing on these systemic poisons, and Roundup’s glyphosate (main ingredient) is also dangerous and pervasive, and banned in several countries. One wonders how these systemics were ever permitted.
    Would you permit the Bee Safe Boulder group to link to the interview from our website ( It would be very useful to do so, I believe.
    Thanks again for the good interview and article; these two beekeepers are so knowledgeable about the systemics.

  4. The images of DDT laden products sure did bring back memories. I remember using them. They were basically a household staple. I think everyone used one product or another. It took so many years to get people to understand the effects. I wonder if we even have the time left to wait for people to come around. EPA needs to get off it’s ass.

  5. It is shocking to read about plants, etc being treated with these chemicals. Retailers really need to do a better job before they sell anything. This is so scary! It makes me wonder just how many plants I have purchased and the amount of chemicals I have exposed myself to.

  6. What Graham White says is very true. This is a PR spin. The lies they tell children is just like a pedophile luring children to a car with candy. We need to teach kids about “neonic stranger danger”.

  7. Please take one minute to sign the White House Petition at demanding that President Obama step in to deny the EPA’s approval of the new 2,4-D Glyphosate herbicide developed by Dow Chemical Company being used on new resistant Genetically Engineered Crops. Obama must respond to the issue if 100,000 signatures are obtained in the next few weeks; a current petition signature count appears on the site.

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