The average gardener could be contributing to the massive die-off of bees and not even know it.

Neonicotinoids, the pesticide that's being blamed for killing millions of bees and other insects, has been found in products commonly sold at garden centres.

Summer is at its peak in Jacqueline Campbell's garden where she is always adding new plants that attract bees and butterflies.

“I want bees and butterflies to thrive in my garden and they do,” she says. “I enjoy seeing them very, very much. I have a lot of birds that are very much thriving in my garden.”

Conservation groups and garden clubs have been promoting the idea of planting pollinator gardens but a survey conducted by Friends of the Earth has revealed some of the plants they’re buying at garden centres to help the bees  could be doing  more harm than good.

The survey says many plants contain pesticide residues.

Friends of the Earth purchased plants at Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart stores in Canada and the United States. They found that more than half of the plants sampled had neonicotinoid pesticides in them, some at levels that could be harmful to pollinators.

CTV News asked a number of Canadian retailers, including Canadian Tire, Rona, and Loblaws  for their comments regarding the sale of nursery plants on which neonicotinoid pesticides have been used.

You can read their responses in the images on the left.

Neonics are extremely toxic to insects, even in very small amounts. Peter Dickey, a bee keeper, says Health Canada found the same chemicals in his dead honey bees as the Friends of the Earth found in nursery plants including lavender, daisies, and salvia.

“Here are the results in my hands right here, conclusive that the neonics are in my dead bees, in the hive,” he says. “We have three years of scientific evidence now. I don't know what it’s going to take to get this stuff off the corn seed and soy beans. Now it turns out it's on the plant material at our local nurseries.”  

In a statement from Home Depot to CTV News, the company says: “We will require all of our live goods suppliers to label plants that they have treated with neonicotinoids.”

Lowes didn’t respond to our requests for comments, and Walmart referred CTV News to the Retail Council of Canada.

The RCC says all of its members comply with current regulations and says it is monitoring Health Canada's review of the pesticides and will work with suppliers if changes need to be made.

Rhonda Green operates a Greentree Gardens and Emporium in Collingwood and grows many of the plants she sells herself. Green says the only way to know if neonics have been used on plants is to ask the grower directly.

“I think people need to know,” she says. “I think people need to know that they can ask the growers, I think growers have to be able to tell you what has been used on the product. I think that's the biggest thing, give us a choice.”