JoAnne Skelly: Ortho to eliminate bee-affecting pesticides

In the 1990s, new insecticides containing the active ingredient imidachloprid came on the market. They were easy for home gardeners to apply, reducing impacts on non-target organisms. They were effective against a variety of challenging insects including bronze birch borers and aphids. However, this chemical and its cousins, acetamiprid, clothianidin and dinotefuran, known as neonicotinoids or neonics for short, may be contributing to the decline of both honeybee and wild bee populations.

On April 12, 2016, Ortho Brand, a subsidiary of ScottsMiracle-Gro (SMG), announced a plan to eliminate neonics from all its outdoor products. The three I mentioned will be eliminated by 2017. Even though agencies within the United States are still evaluating the impact of these chemicals on honeybees, other countries, including most of the European Union and the state of Maryland have already partially or completely banned them.

Ortho brand’s general manager, Tim Martin, says, “It’s time for Ortho to move on. As the category leader, it is our responsibility to provide consumers with effective solutions that they know are safe for their family and the environment when used as directed,” (

Ortho announced a multi-year partnership with the Pollinator Stewardship Council, a pollinator advocacy group that supports over 550 beekeepers in the United States. They will work together to develop homeowner education relating to the responsible use of pesticides in areas where pollinators can be found. They hope to work with government agencies to make labels clearer so consumers can more easily differentiate between neonic and non-neonic containing brands. Their ‘Pollinator Promise’ will create 75 pollinator gardens across the U.S. They are asking that other consumer pest control brands also transition away from the use of neonics.

The Ortho product available to home gardeners that contains imidachloprid is Ortho Rose & Flower Insect Control Plus Miracle-Gro Plant Food Granules. Acetamiprid is found in Ortho Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer Ready-To-Use; Ortho Flower, Fruit & Vegetable Insect Killer Concentrate; Ortho Rose & Flower Insect Killer Ready-To-Use; and Ortho Rose & Flower [Insect &] Disease Control Concentrate. Dinotefuran is the active ingredient in Ortho Tree & Shrub Insect Control Granules and Ortho Tree & Shrub Insect Control Plus Miracle-Gro Plant Food Concentrate.

The Bayer Advanced Company, a leader in the development of imidachloprid, includes it in many of their tree, shrub, rose and flower insecticides. Other companies use these other neonics including: thiamethoxam, thiacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, and fipronil. Bottom line, read the label.

JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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