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Bees and Neonicotinoids: Behnke Policy Statement

May 30, 2014; Updated March 10, 2015

Behnke Nurseries is aware that neonicotinoid insecticides have been implicated as part of a complex of factors, including mites and viruses, that collectively cause bee colony collapse disorder.  We also are aware that the misapplication of many other pesticides will weaken or kill foraging bees and other non-target organisms.

In order to reduce damage to bees and other pollinators, we have developed a Behnke policy on pesticides:

1) Application of Neonicotinoid-Containing Insecticides at Behnke Nurseries:

We pledge to never apply neonicotinoid pesticides to plants on the Behnke property, either in ground or in pots.

2) Sale of insecticides in General:

We will recommend use of least-toxic effective remedies: soaps, horticultural oils, neem oil, pyrethrin, etc.

3) Sale of Neonicotinoid-containing Pesticides:

We will discontinue sales of all neonicotinoid-containing products. We will sell existing stock, and not reorder.

Update: As of March 2015 we have are now out of the products and as pledged, will not be reordering.  We have not reordered and as stated we will no longer be selling neonicotinoid-containing insecticides labeled for use on plants.

4) Pesticide-application Safety Warnings:

Warning Signs will be posted in our chemical sales areas.


  • Know what pest insect you are trying to control and make sure the product you are using is the correct one: Bring a sample and ask us for advice.
  • Always follow label instructions.
  • Don’t apply pesticides to plants when they are in bloom.
  • Insecticides containing neonicotinoids (eg, Imidacloprid or Merit) are implicated as a factor in bee colony collapse disorder. Be particularly cautious in your use of these products.
  • Behnke Nurseries is phasing out our sales of neonicotinoid-containing insecticides.”

Update: these signs have been posted since May 30, 2014 to  remain on display until existing stocks was sold.  At this  time we will be modifying the poster to retain the cautions for general application of pesticides, but we will indicate that we have discontinued sales of products containing neonicotinoids.

5) Plants that We Sell:

  • We will write a letter to the growers of outdoor plants that supply Behnke’s, expressing Behnke Nurseries’ concern about the use of neonicotinoids.
  • We will request that our growers reduce or eliminate the use of neonicotinoids on outdoor plants. (Annuals, Perennials, Woody Plants).
  • We will tell them that we are prepared to give buying preference to growers who are neonicotinoid free.
  • Once we have lined up sources of neonicotinoid-free plants, we will only use those plants on our display tables that are promoting pollinator gardens.
  • The letters will be sent out no later than June 15, 2014.

Update: We have contacted the majority of our annual, perennial and woody plant growers.  Many have discontinued use of neonicotinoid insecticides, while others have reduced their use.

The first set of letters was sent out by June 15, 2014. We contact growers for updated information on an ongoing basis. We are preparing a brochure for spring of 2015 that will list our grower-suppliers who are no longer using neonicotinoids.  Many growers have their company name on the price label of the plants that we sell, so the concerned customer will be able to buy from growers that do not apply neonicotinoids.

We realized the term “neonicotinoid-free” is not accurate, and we will instead use the term “growers who do not apply neonicotinoids.”

Consumers need to be aware that many/most of our growers do not propagate their own plants; that is, they buy seed, rooted cuttings, and other “starter” plants from a number of specialty growers, some of whom use neonicotinoids and some who do not.

Therefore, it is likely that some of the plants sold by growers who do not apply neonicotinoids themselves may still have a small residue from treatment in their beginning stages by their own suppliers.  For a perennial grower for example, this treatment might occur three to 15 months before the plant is actually sold to a retailer like Behnke Nurseries.  The treatment would consist of a small amount of chemical relative to the ultimate size of the plant; much less than a grower would use on an established plant if the grower were using neonicotinoids.

Like you, we look forward to further research findings that better quantify the causes of bee colony collapse disorder.

Alfred Millard, President
May 30, 2014: original statement
March 10, 2015: updates

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