January 28, 2015

The Despot loses a sale

At the orange big box on January 16: 'Ascot Rainbow,' a tempting spurge. See the little tag tucked in each pot?

Little tag's there on the left.

I have a spurge (Euphorbia characias ‘Glacier Blue’) that I like a lot, and I was tempted to buy 'Ascot Rainbow.' It's beautiful. I took some photos and drove home to think it over, the way one does, and decided to get one. Went back to the store a week or so later, and saw more of those little tags everywhere, on every succulent from big agaves to tiny mammillarias, on plants inside and outside, everywhere. So many of them I took a closer look, and they're not the usual ID/planting info tags.

The tag says something like, "This plant is free of aphids, mealy bugs, etc., etc. because it has been treated with a neonicotinoid pesticide."

Neonicotinoids... where have I heard that word before? Oh. Oh, yeah. "Pesticide blamed in death of 25,000 bumblebees in Oregon." That pesticide. From the Xerces Society:
  • Neonicotinoid residues are found in pollen and nectar consumed by pollinators such as bees and butterflies. The residues can reach lethal concentrations in some situations.
  • Neonicotinoids can persist in soil for months or years after a single application. Measurable amounts of residues were found in woody plants up to six years after application.
  • Untreated plants may absorb chemical residues left over in the soil from the previous year.
  • Products approved for homeowners to use in gardens, lawns, and on ornamental trees have manufacturer-recommended application rates up to 120 times higher than rates approved for agricultural crops. [Source]

Boy, I'd sure like some of that in my garden! But seriously, here I am trying to create a wildlife-friendly environment, trying to attract birds, butterflies, bees, lizards, frogs, trying to avoid this type of pesticide use, only to discover that every plant sold by the local Despot is a neonicotinoid time bomb of lethal residues. Great.

To be fair, at least the orange big box requires labeling now: U.S. retailers look to limit pesticides to help honeybees, said Reuters back in June when instead of paying attention, I was up in Big Bear singing "School's out for summer!" (Wonder if the blue big box requires labeling. Must ask.) Anyhow, on Monday I found a droopy, Dr. Seuss-ian  'Ascot Rainbow' at a local nursery that's more organic than not, and put him in a planter for now with a tiny Ceanothus 'Concha.' I hope he thrives.

Be a friend to all nature, little dude!


  1. I had heard they were labeling for neonicotinoids now, and think it's a great thing. I bet it will cost them in the short term, as they can't sell the treated plants to most people, but long term the tide will turn and they'll start ordering in non-treated plants.

  2. Absolutely agree. I'm thankful for the labels!


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