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Buzzkill: Huge Bee Die-off in Oregon Parking Lot Blamed on Insecticide Spraying

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Honey Bees Health page and our Organic Transitions page.

National Pollinator Week began grimly Sunday when tens of thousands of dead bumblebees, honeybees, ladybugs, and other insects were discovered blanketing a shopping plaza’s parking lot just off Interstate 5 in Wilsonville, Ore.

Bumblebees were the species hardest hit, with an estimated 25,000 dead and 150 colonies lost outside a Target store. “They were literally falling out of the trees,” said Rich Hatfield, a conservation biologist with the nonprofit Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “To our knowledge this is one of the largest documented bumblebee deaths in the Western U.S. It was heartbreaking to watch.”

It turns out that landscapers had sprayed the lot’s 65 European linden trees on Saturday with the insecticide Safari. The insecticide is marketed by manufacturer Valent as “a super-systemic insecticide with quick uptake and knockdown.”

Xerces sampled the dead bees and concluded that the landscaping company that sprayed the insecticide was to blame. State investigators say they won’t be ready to pin the blame on the landscapers until they have investigated other pesticide applications in the area.


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