Bees are extremely important for pollination, which helps many plants reproduce. However, some pesticides affect these insects.
B&Q has banned suppliers from using any of the nine “neonicotinoid” pesticides in growing its flowering plant range available from next February in all its British and Irish stores.
The retailer says it is the first to commit to ensuring none of the pesticides is used in the cultivation of flowering plants.
Dr Úna Fitzpatrick, an ecologist at the National Biodiversity Data Centre, said she welcomed the news.
Dr Fitzpatrick said she believes it is an important departure in the gardening retail sector.
“It’s relatively trailblazing. Often there is no choice to buy seed that hasn’t been pre-treated [with a pesticide]. It can be difficult for farmers and gardeners to buy untreated seed,” she said.
“Pre-treated seed comes coated in a pesticide and this is released into the soil because it’s water soluble. It’s then taken up by the plant and expressed by all of its tissues, its leaves, stem, pollen and nectar.
"The pesticide then gets expressed by beneficial insects such as bees [who feed on the pollen],” she added.
Dr Fitzpatrick said some pesticides interfere with the reproductive cycles and neural pathways of bees.
“We would love to see more national and local garden centres doing this ]selling untreated seeds].
“People can ask, when they go to the local garden centre, if the seeds have been pre-treated. This would be very a powerful thing to do as it would put pressure on that sector.”
While there are circumstances where pesticide use is acceptable, Dr Fitzpatrick cannot justify its use in a domestic garden.
“It’s not about not using pesticides, it’s about using them sustainably. There are scenarios where you can justify using pesticides but it would be hard to justify using them in a garden,” she said.
B&Q made the announcement following their own research and ahead of an EU restriction coming into effect next year.
“In 2013 we reviewed the use of neonicotinoids in our garden chemical products,” said Rachel Bradley, B&Q’s sustainability manager.
“As a result of the findings, and ahead of EU restrictions, we withdrew all pest control products containing the three substances most linked to the decline in bee population.
“We will ensure that none of the flowering plants we sell will be grown using any pesticide containing any of the nine neonicotinoids.”
In Ireland, most pollination is carried out by bees, however, one-third of all 98 of our bee species are threatened with extinction.