Friday, June 21, 2013

The Buzz: City Steps in to Save Bees

The City of Wilsonville and the Xerces Society are wrapping 50 linden trees in netting to help save bees from the misapplication of the pesticide Safari, a powerful neonicotinoid made by the Valent Corporation, that has killed more than 25,000 bees so far in this one event.

Wrapping trees with protective netting.

The landscaping company that did the spraying, which has yet to be named, sprayed the 30-foot trees while they were in full bloom, a use specifically prohibited by the instructions that come with the pesticide. No legal action has been initiated as of today, but the city and the Xerces Society are in discussions with the property owners and the property manager, Elliot & Associates.

Neonicotinoids, a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically related to nicotine, are still legal in the United States, but have been banned in Europe due to evidence of a connection to honey-bee colony collapse disorder.

Xerces Society staff helps with netting.

Ironically, this tragic occurrence coincided with the beginning of National Pollinator Week, meant to "raise awareness about the importance of bees, birds and other pollinator species to agriculture, forest and grassland environments and other ecosystems," according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Xerces Society Executive Director Scott Black, in an interview, said that to prevent future events like this, "we need to take action to protect native pollinators" from "the use and over use of toxic insecticides."

Update: Noon, 6/21/13 The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) confirmed in a press release that the bumblebees were poisoned by dinotefuran, the active ingredient in Safari, the neonicotinoid sprayed on the trees. According to the press release, "ODA continues its active investigation of the incident to determine if the pesticide application was in violation of state and federal pesticide regulations."

Update: 3 pm, 6/21/13 Rich Hatfield, biologist for the Xerces Society, now estimates that more than 50,000 bees were poisoned in Wilsonville in the largest mass bumblebee death on record. (Read the post.)

Read the second report in this series: "Dead and Dying Bees Still Being Found"

Photos by Mace Vaughan, Pollinator Program Director of the Xerces Society.

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