What Are Neonics

What Are Neonics, How Do They Harm the Environment, and What You Can Do To Help

The natural world faces various threats like expanding agricultural acreage, real estate growth, and pollution. Chemicals like fertilizers and herbicides can also take their toll. Another category of pesticides threatens insect and pollinator populations: neonicotinoids.

Neonicotinoids, also known as neonics, developed in the mid-1990s, are a class of synthetic, neurotoxic insecticides. Companies use neonics to treat a native plant nursery, lawn, golf course, crop, and tick and flea issues for pets. They can be detrimental to a biological system such as a native plant nursery.

Here is more information about how neonics work, their potential damage, and steps you can take to help mitigate the issue:

How Do Neonicotinoids Work? 

Neonics have become the most widely used insecticide. They’re effective for controlling difficult soil pests that cause problems for growers. In the United States, almost 30% of soybean and 80% of corn seed crops are treated with neonic pesticides.

Neonics work by binding to insect nerve cells, causing paralysis and death. They help control insects that damage crops, but their impact is indiscriminate. Good insects like bees are also impaired or killed. The loss of pollinator insects can impact crop pollination and nature as a whole. 

Applied to plant seeds or roots, neonics penetrate cells throughout the plant. This means every part of the plant, from stem to nectar, is toxic. Neonics can also remain active in the soil for years. They don’t just disappear after their purpose is served.

Rain and irrigation spread the pesticide, leading to ecosystem contamination. These harmful chemicals can have detrimental effects on a farm crop, native plant nursery, orchard, and many other biological systems.

How Can We Mitigate Problems Caused by Neonics? 

Planting native flowers that nourish pollinators can help combat the effects of neonics. Certain native plant nurseries offer hundreds of native plant species that support valuable pollinator populations.

When you search for a nursery, find one that offers neonic-free plants. Here are a few plants to look for at a native plant nursery to help combat toxic insecticides:


The coneflower, also known as Echinacea purpurea, is a small flowering plant with beautiful purple petals. Bees and butterflies are commonly drawn to this unique plant. These pollinators are attracted to the center of the flower because it contains sweet nectar and pollen, and the wide surface provides an easy spot for these insects to land. 


Chelone glabra, commonly referred to as turtlehead, is a perennial plant that produces flowers that can be white, red, purple, or pink. The turtlehead plant bears its name due to the blooms carrying a resemblance to a turtle’s head with its mouth slightly open.

this plant is great as a pollinator for hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and other insects. It also blooms for several weeks, allowing the insects to enjoy the pollen and nectar for an extended period.

Prairie Dock

Also known as Silphium terebinthinaceum, the prairie dock plant produces small, yellow flowers. It produces a light, sweet smell that helps in enticing various pollinating animals and insects.

It attracts a variety of pollinators, including birds, honeybees, and bumblebees. These sturdy plants are used to thriving in harsh conditions and are a great option for gardeners looking for a drought-tolerant plant.


Itea virginica, otherwise known as sweetspire, is a form of shrub with long, extended branches. At the end of each branch, the plant features white, sweet-smelling flowers. These flowers provide an attractive surface for bees and butterflies to land. Foliage provided by the branches also presents great cover for birds and other small wildlife. 

Blazing Star

The blazing star flower (Liatris spicata) is a flowering plant that features erect stems with white or purple flowers on the end. The beautiful colors attract a wide array of insects, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. These flowers bloom late in the summer and last for several weeks, making them an attractive option for insects to enjoy.

Find Neonic-free Plants at a Native Plant Nursery

Neonicotinoids are dangerous insecticides that can have damaging effects on our ecosystem. Try to combat the use of these insecticides by contributing to nurseries that carry plants that support pollinators.

Search for one of the pollinator-friendly plants listed above, or ask your local nursery what plants they have in stock that support helpful insect life. Start your search for the best native plant nursery in your area today.