From Green Right Now Reports

A coalition of environmental groups that asked followers to send Valentines to Lowes and Home Depot on behalf of honey bees, felt the love this week.

But the home improvement stores felt only the sting.

Tens of thousands responded on various petitions and via letters urging the Big Box stores to stop selling the pesticides and pesticide-laced plants that scientists say are killing bees.

Friends of the Earth estimated that 27,000 people across the US would be “swarming” to Lowe’s and Home Depot this week to personally deliver Valentine’s for bees. Another member of the coalition, Organic Consumers Association, had charted 12,630 signatures (by Feb. 13) on a petition appealing to the stores to stop hurting bees.

The official Valentines (you can cut one out here) ask the stores to “Show Bees Some Love” by stopping the sale of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to be lethal to bees and other pollinators. The Valentines also ask the stores to stop selling nursery plants that have been pre-treated with those same pesticides “with no warning to consumers.”

While the BeeAction campaign aimed to highlight that people love bees and all they do – helping fertilize two-thirds of human food crops for example — it also revealed some serious customer wrath toward the stores, which were exposed last fall for selling plants pre-treated with neonicotinoids.

Customers said they were unhappy to discover they’d bought plants toxic to bees, and may even have even purchased plants they thought would nourish pollinators only to realize they could kill them.

The dissatisfaction was palpable on a petition on asking Home Depot and Lowe’s to “Stop Selling Bee-Killing Garden Plants!”:

  • “As a backyard beekeeper – one whose colony perished last year – I am especially concerned about the use of bee-killing pesticides on plants sold at Lowe’s and Home Depot – both stores at which I shop. The fact that these bee-killing plants are marketed as being “bee friendly” adds to the distress,” wrote Rebecca Bizonet of Tecumseh, MI, on Thursday.
  • “No pollinators – no food. As simple as that,” said Marie Raven of Laurel, MD.
  • “As an avid gardener we buy many items from Home Depot and Lowe’s especially in the spring. As the wife of a beekeeper I was sad to hear that so many of your plants had been treated with neonicotinoids. Untill you can assure your consumers that you will not long sell chemicals or plants containing these pesticides I will have to take my business elsewhere,” wrote Kim Presnell of Kelso, WA.

Other people just expressed the hope that their fellow humans would start to understand and respect bees.

  • “People don’t realize what the role of bee really is…,” wrote Frank Molinini, on yet another petition on behalf of bees on “Society sees them as pests and puts them in the same category as other insects. This is because we are disconnected from the land. Most people live in cities and have developed allergies. If you have allergies carry those antidote cartridges around with you to be safe, but there is no need to annihilate the whole species. Bees have been helping mankind achieve abundance and have been responsible for the success of settlements for thousands of years. We such have a relationship with bees that they need us as much as we need them.”

So far Home Depot and Lowe’s appear to be ignoring the campaign, or at least the retail chains have not issued official responses or press releases on the topic on their online corporate websites. (We’ve asked for feedback.)

Since 2006 US bee hives have been suffering large annual losses due to the deadly condition called “Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).”

Scientists have discovered that a contributor to CCD, perhaps even the main factor causing bee hives to suddenly die off, is the neonicotinoid class of pesticides. These synthetic pesticides are taken up by plants, becoming an intrinsic part of the flowers, shrubs and trees treated with them. The host plant becomes toxic to the insects that consume or carry its pollen. Neonicotinoids act as a neurotoxin, which fits with what happens in CCD in which bees are observed to become disoriented and fail to return to the hive.

The efficacy of neonicotinoids has resulted in their wide adoption in agriculture as well, as growers seek to kill off predator insects. But this method of farming goes against biological tenets, and harms the bees and other beneficial pollinators who failed to get the memo to stay away.

Meanwhile, monoculture farming has reduced the native plants – clovers, milkweed etc. – that feed bees and butterflies, dealing the insects a double whammy.

As a result, apiarists across the country have seen losses of their hives in the 30 to 40 percent range, and worse, from season to season.

Recently scientists began pointing to even more pesticides that appear to be hurting bees. That research suggests that when combinations of pesticides come into contact with bee larvae in the hive, the deleterious effects are compounded.