Nursery Nectar Plants, Are They Safe for Pollinators?

This is a question I’ve had to ask myself this spring season. I’ve been naïve to the fact plants, with flowers, that are frequently purchased to attract and support butterflies, bees and other pollinators could actually harm them.

A fellow butterfly hobbyist informed our group that after purchasing lantana, a favorite nectar plant of butterflies, the majority of their butterflies died in two days. Previously they’d purchased plants from Home Depot, which labels plants treated with neonicotinoids, so they could avoid flowing plants treated with pesticides that could harm butterflies. Another major retailer did not have these tags and that is where they recently purchased their lantana.

Later in the summer, a friend of mine who raised bees for honey told me his whole colony died. I mentioned I had heard some nectar plants could be treated with neonicotinoids, which was potentially hazardous for pollinators. He was surprised. Sure enough, after checking his plant labels he found some he purchased had the warning label that neonicotinoids were used. Now he wishes he was a label reader. How many of us read labels in that detail? It’s a pretty flower. Who would have thought a treatment that is potentially harmful to pollinators would be used on a flowering plant that feeds our pollinators?

There are a lot of articles discussing whether neonicotinoids are harmful or not to pollinators. For me, enough information indicates they can be harmful, so I error on the side of caution, avoiding this pesticide all together. Hopefully someday studies can be done to resolve this conflict of information.

Today I went to shop for nectar plants. What I found is I’m going to have to ask a lot of questions when purchasing nectar plants, instead of trusting they are safe for pollinators.

I found that common flowering plants that can attract pollinators had been treated with neonicotinoids. Such as alyssum and marigold. I say kudos to Home Depot for requiring their suppliers using these treatments to label their plants.

Neonicotinoid Plant Label

I can make an informed decision
and avoid purchasing these nectar
sources when I see this tag.


When purchasing flowering plants, ask the question, at any nursery, big or small.

Neonicotinoid Plant Label for MarigoldSilvery_CheckerSpot_Butterfly_Marigold

Are your plants treated with Neonicotinoids?