By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An environmental group said Wednesday that many home gardeners may be unknowingly hurting the bee population, as the insects’ numbers continue to decline.

Bees pollinate many fruits and vegetables, including apples, strawberries, blueberries and cucumbers.

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The Pesticide Action Network along with a well-known University of Minnesota bee researcher said a study found that garden supply stores including Home Depot and Lowe’s are selling plants that are treated with pesticides that kill bees.

But the authors believe that many more garden stores are likely treating their plants with the deadly neonicotinoid pesticides.

At the University of Minnesota Horticultural Garden, there should be hundreds of bees where there are just one or two, U of M bee expert Vera Krischik said.

She said a world without bees would be a lot less tasty.

“Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries they are all bee pollinated,” she said. “If we don’t have bees to do the pollination, what are we going to be left with? Rice, corn, soybeans — it’s going to be a very bland diet.”

The Pesticide Action Network said 54 percent of plants bought at Home Depot, and Lowe’s had neonicotinoid pesticides in their systems.

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Once treated, the pesticide stays in the plants for two years.

“That means a home gardener who thought they planted a bee friendly landscape in their backyard may end up planting a bee toxic garden instead,” said Lex Horan of the Pesticide Action Network.

The bee die off is already affecting prices at the grocery store.

Many fruit producers are forced to buy bees so their plants can pollinate and that has boosted prices of produce.

Home Depot released a statement: “We have not reviewed the study but we certainly appreciate the importance of the bee population. We will reach out to the study group to find out more about their findings and methodology.”

These types of pesticides are already banned in some parts of Europe and Canada, and the group is hoping is that the United States will ban them as well.

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WCCO did reach out to Lowe’s stores and did not hear back.

Esme Murphy