Why should you consider marketing your plants as bee-friendly? – Part 2

Despite the confusion around the term “bee-friendly,” retailers might be able to garner a premium price for plants labeled bee-friendly.

Plants on the Michigan Garden Plant Tour. Photo credit: Heidi Wollaeger, MSU Extension

Plants on the Michigan Garden Plant Tour. Photo credit: Heidi Wollaeger, MSU Extension

In Part 1, Michigan State University Extension explained “bee-friendly” can refer to its attractiveness as a food source for bees and it could also refer to our pest management practices. This could create some confusion to consumers as to what bee-friendly means. Do we know if our consumers are also confused by this term and, even if they are, could there still be a reason to still use it for marketing purposes?

Do consumers find “bee-friendly” confusing too?

Since the phrase bee-friendly is ambiguous to those in the green industry, is it also ambiguous to our consumers? Yes, it is. According to recent nationwide survey by Michigan State University of over 3,000 participants, 67 percent of consumers described that bee-friendly meant that bees are not harmed and 46 percent described it as the use of products without bee toxicity. Approximately half of respondents identified bee-friendly as environmentally friendly or as better for the environment. In a free-form question, over one-third responded that bee-friendly meant practices that are not harmful to bees while 19 percent said it indicates the plant is attractive to bees.

If the term bee-friendly is ambiguous, why should we market our plants as bee-friendly?

According to the same survey by researchers at Michigan State University, there may be a couple of reasons to still use the terminology bee-friendly. First, when compared with other terms tested such as “grown with beneficial insects,” “grown with traditional pest control” and “grown without neonicotinoids,” bee-friendly was the most well understood phrase. In contrast, more than two-thirds of participants responded they never heard of or did not understand the word “neonicotinoid” when shown a plant labeled with “grown without neonicotinoids.”

Secondly, consumers of some demographic segments may be willing to pay a premium for plants marketed as bee-friendly. Table 1 shows the price premiums that consumers were willing to pay for 4-inch indoor or outdoor plants or 12-inch hanging baskets. The price premiums were the greatest for the outdoor flowering plants grown in 12-inch hanging baskets, which was worth $1.48 more than plants marketed as grown without neonicotinoids or $0.96 more than plants marketed as grown traditionally.

Table 1. Price premiums for bee-friendly outdoor or indoor 4-inch flowering plants or 12-inch hanging baskets compared with other pest control practices. Bee-friendly practices can garner these premium prices compared with other marketing terminology.

Plant type


Grown with beneficial insects

Grown traditionally

Outdoor 4-inch flowering plant




Indoor 4-inch flowering plant




Outdoor 12-inch hanging basket




For more information on the consumer survey performed by Michigan State University, check out “Talking about the bees.”

See Part 1 of this series: Bee-friendly plants and pest management strategies - Part 1

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