Neonicotinoids have been blamed for the declining health of pollinators – bees in particular – resulting in a fiery debate involving parties ranging from the EPA to grassroots environmental groups, from major chemical companies to small growers, and from the public to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s become a battle between science and emotion, with growers of ornamentals, as well as garden center retailers, placed squarely in the middle of the fray.

Several growers have sworn off use of the compounds, a move their customers have resoundingly applauded. The two largest big box stores – Home Depot and Lowe’s – have agreed to provide special warning labels and to phase out use of neonicotinoids, respectively.

Just last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which includes nine Western states, struck down the EPA’s approval of sulfoxaflor, vacating the agency’s unconditional registration of the chemical. In North Carolina, the environmental organization Friends of the Earth rallied at the state capital to demand that Bayer cease sales of neonicotinoid pesticides. The group claims it delivered petitions signed by 500,000 people.

On the other hand, a recent study reported in the journal Science addressed the effects of climate change on the reduction in bee populations and concluded, in part, that the overall effect of climate change is to “crush bumblebee species in a kind of climate vise,” according to lead author Jeremy Kerr, an ecologist with the University of Ottawa. The result? Decreases in bee populations as temperatures rise.

Photo: iStock | njmcc

As reported in the L.A. Times, “Researchers investigated other possible explanations for the bumblebees’ shrinking range, like increased use of neonicotinoid pesticides and land-use change. Though both are grave threats to bee species, they aren’t responsible for the range losses seen in the study.”

So. What’s your take? You’ve read about the neonic dispute, you’ve listened to enlightened presentations. You’ve likely debated it with colleagues, competitors and coworkers. It’s a tricky topic, rife with controversy.

Tell us what you think. Share your ideas, and we’ll provide the forum.

Sources for discussion

The number of sources for information regarding pollinator health and neonicotinoids is nearly inexhaustible, but for your convenience, we’ve provided several links. These are listed in no particular order, and it is not our intent to influence your opinion. In that regard, you’re on your own. But we hope you’ll share it with us, and with the readers of American Nurseryman.

Email us at and Let’s watch what happens.