Gardeners could be buying plants that have been soaked in controversial pesticides linked to bee decline.

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Research at Sussex University, by bee expert Professor Dave Goulson, examined 29 plants on sale at garden centres and DIY stores and found that over 70 per cent contained traces of neonicotinoid (neonic) pesticides.

The study claimed that some plants had been treated with neonics that have been restricted across Europe and pose an “acute risk” to honey bees.

The report said: “Retailers were selling plants containing variable combinations of potentially harmful chemicals, so any purchase is playing ‘Russian roulette’ with pollinators.”

Friends of the Earth (FoE) bee campaigner Nick Rau said: “Gardeners will be concerned that some stores and garden centres are selling plants treated with pesticides linked to bee decline – including some plants that are labelled as ‘pollinator-friendly’”.

Friends of the Earth wants retailers to follow B&Q’s stance. The DIY and garden giant says all its plants will be grown without neonics by 2018.

An FoE online petition, called Get bee-harming pesticides out of garden plants, had been signed by 15,921 people as the 10 June 2017 issue of Amateur Gardening went to press.

FoE also released a poll which said that 78 per cent of the public agreed that garden centres should not sell plants grown with pesticides that are said to be harmful to bees.