A pesticide used in many of the plants sold at garden centres is contributing to bee colony deaths, and at least one Montreal gardener is lobbying the government to clamp down on the usage of neonicotinoids.

Earlier this week, a panel of independent scientists, operating as the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, found that neonicotinoids and fipronil are harming the environment, posing a similar threat to the one posed by the pesticide DDT in the 1960s.

Arlyle Waring, a gardener in Montreal’s west end, said she collected samples of eight plants and sent them in to environmental group Friends Of the Earth.

The group collected samples from gardeners in 18 cities in Canada and the U.S. and came back with some alarming results: 51 per cent of the plants collected contained neonicotinoids.

“I sent in eight samples of alyssum, salvia, daisies — a number of bee-loving plants,” Waring told CBC Daybreak on Friday.

CBC News contacted Home Depot, Rona and Canadian Tire, but all three stores declined interviews. They said they were looking into the issue.

Waring said that’s not good enough. She said that at the very least, plants containing the bee-killing pesticide should be labelled as such, so gardeners can avoid buying them.

Bee deaths are food security issue

Ideally, though, she said there should be a moratorium on the usage of neonicotinoids, like the one in the European Union, until they can be properly studied.

“This is way beyond gardeners who are growing bee-friendly plants in their gardens. Two-thirds of everything we eat are pollinated by bees and other pollinators. This is really a food security issue,” Waring said.

She said other factors responsible for bee deaths include lack of bee-friendly flowers and mite infestations.

Even so, she said, stopping the usage of neonicotinoids is paramount to ensuring bees stop dying off in droves.

She encouraged gardeners to buy organic seedlings and to write to major garden centre suppliers to tell them they wouldn’t buy their plants until they could guarantee they did not contain the pesticide.

“I think we have to be very, very vocal on this,” Waring said.