UPDATE, June 22: The number of bees killed is now estimated at 50,000
Bee kill-off: More than 25,000 bees that were living in trees around a Target store in Oregon were killed after a landscape company used a pesticide when it wasn’t supposed to.
Shoppers called Rich Hatfield, a conservation biologist with the Portland-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, who went to check on the situation.
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“After several calls at the office I visited the Target store in Wilsonville and found a parking lot full of dead bumblebees underneath blooming European linden trees,” Hatfield told the Portland Tribune. “They were literally falling out of the trees. To our knowledge this is one of the largest documented bumblebee deaths in the Western U.S. It was heartbreaking to watch.”
The 50 to 55 linden trees–which had other dead insects, too–were apparently treated with an insecticide called dinotefuran by a landscape company. Dinotefuran is used to control “insect pests” such as leadhoppers, beetles, and cockroaches in leafy vegetables, and is also used for in professional ornamental lawn care and golf courses, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Scott Hoffman Black, executive director at the Xerces Society said the landscape company “did not follow label directions as it is not supposed to be sprayed during bloom.”
“We now assume this is the cause of the massive bee die-off,” said Black.
The 25,000-plus dead bees made up more than 150 colonies. A steady die-off of bees across the U.S. has been attributed by some experts to rampant use of chemicals, which appears to be the case here.
“We need to spotlight this as a real-world lesson in the harm these toxic chemicals are causing to beneficial insects,” Black said. “It would be especially alarming to find out whether pesticides are the cause in this case because the linden trees are not even an agricultural crop. Any spraying that happened would have been done for purely cosmetic reasons.”
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