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Xerces Society: Wilsonville Bees Died From Pesticide Poisoning

OPB | June 19, 2013 12:27 p.m. | Updated: June 19, 2013 3:47 p.m.

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Thousands of dead bumblebees were found in a Wilsonville Target parking lot, where 55 linden trees were reportedly sprayed with insecticide while they were in bloom.

Thousands of dead bumblebees were found in a Wilsonville Target parking lot, where 55 linden trees were reportedly sprayed with insecticide while they were in bloom.

Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, said he has confirmed the thousands of dead bees found Monday in a Wilsonville parking lot died from pesticide poisoning.

Black said the Oregon Department of Agriculture talked with a landscaping company that recently sprayed an insecticide called Safari on the European linden trees in the parking lot.

“They made a huge mistake, but unfortunately this is not that uncommon,” said Black. “Evidently they didn’t follow the label instructions. This should not have been applied to the trees while they’re in bloom.”

However, ODA Communications Director Bruce Pokarney said his agency hasn’t confirmed that the pesticide sprayed on Saturday is the cause of the bee die-off.

“I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said. “We’re looking at any other pesticide applications that might have taken place in the area that might have come into play. Until we get all that figured out, we stop short of saying this is the culprit or the likely culprit. It’s one of the possibilities we’re looking at. A very strong possibility.”

The Xerces Society, known for its efforts in bee conservation, started getting calls about dead and dying bees in a Target parking lot on Monday. The numbers of dead bees have mounted to an estimated 25,000, according to the Xerces Society, and Black said more bees are still dying.

“It’s still going on,” he said. “My staff is out there right now and there are still dead and dying bees.”

ODA is considering pruning the flowers off of about 50 linden trees that were sprayed in the area so they’re not attracting more insects that will end up dying from the insecticide, Black said.

“At this point this would be the only way to solve the problem,” said Black. “This insecticide is going to be toxic for many more days, I’m sure, and these plants will be blooming for at least several more days.”

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