About 60 people gathered in Wilsonville Sunday for a memorial of the thousands of bumblebees recently killed by pesticides in a Target parking lot.
The group huddled in the shade outside the Target store. They carried signs lamenting the lost bees and opposing pesticides. They made prayer flags, and they sang songs together.
Dozens of European Linden trees in the store parking lot remain shrouded with bee-proof netting. Two weeks ago, the blooming trees were spayed with insecticide. It was intended to kill aphids that drip sap on parked cars.
But the pesticide also killed an estimated 50,000 bumblebees. Memorial organizer Rozzell Medina invited people attending his event to share a moment of silence in their honor. He said he collected dead bees around the property Sunday and found some bees are still dying inside the tree netting.
Medina said, “After this service, this memorial, I would encourage you to walk around and look in the trees. If you look inside the nets, you’ll see hundreds of bees still in there, dying or dead.”
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has banned certain uses of the pesticide while it investigates whether the bee kill violated state or federal regulations.
Some at the memorial service called for a ban on the type of pesticide used in Wilsonville while others advocated for more education about the risks of using any pesticide at all.
Barbara Robins said attending the ceremony gave her hope that there could be a solution to the problem of pesticides killing beneficial insects. She’s now committed to writing a letter to the White House every day asking for stronger pesticide regulations.
“When I heard that 50,000 bumblebees had been killed here, I felt helpless and I felt so hurt,” she said. “I love bumblebees especially. Our yard is full of them. I had to do something, I didn’t know what. I made about eight signs and 12 little flags and came down here with my husband.”
Bobbo Bernstein wrote two songs for the occasion, one of which was an adaptation of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” The group joined in to sing along and add call-outs of edible foods that are pollinated by bees:
“Ain’t no honey when they’re gone. That’s the price we’re going to pay. Ain’t no honey when they’re gone, and we’re poisoning our home. Better put that spray away.
Bee-less flowers when they’re gone. Bee-less birdsong when they’re gone. Bee-less apples when they’re gone. Bee-less peaches when they’re gone …”