A bee killing pesticide is banned in Oregon (albeit temporarily)! And sadly, a memorial service for the bee deaths (explained in detail below) is to be held today, Sunday, June 30th, 2013, in what is possibly the first in history to be held for the massacre of our friends, the pollinating bees. It is surreal that in our times we have come to this; that we now find ourselves saying farewell to 50,000 dead bumblebees killed by the hand of mankind. And it is time for us all to ask ourselves, are we not all complicit? Have we done enough to hold our elected officials accountable? Can we not stop the assault on our little friends who give so much to us?

msgd1sdzm7zmilvm1qha Two recent incidents involving pesticide-induced bee deaths in Oregon, including one  (previously diaried here) in which thousands of pollinating honeybees and bumble bees were killed in a Willsonville Target parking lot, as well as another occurrence of hundreds of bee deaths in Hillsboro, has prompted the Oregon Department of Agriculture to place a 180 day ban on the use of dinotefuron, a pesticide based on neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide notoriously associated with recent annual massive honey bee die-offs related to Colony Collapse Disease (CCD). -4792002803fe5cb4

In brief, the bumblebees and honeybees were attracted to the nectar-secreting linden tree blossoms which were located in a Target store parking lot. Tens of thousands of bees were foraging on the blossoms of 55 trees when a landscaping crew sprayed the pesticide over the trees to kill aphids, and the bees thus took a direct hit of the poison. An estimated 50,000 bees were massacred, which were seen dropping from the flowers onto the asphalt parking lot. Biologists from Xerces, an environmental group whose mission includes insect pollinator conservation, were notified, who arrived on the scene to investigate.

The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat.
The Willsonville incident is being called "largest event of its kind ever documented, with an estimated impact on more than 300 wild bumble bee colonies," according to Rich Hatfield, a biologist at Xerces, an Oregon Based environmental group, who estimates that over 50,000 bumble bees were killed. According to Hatfield,  
“Each of those colonies could have produced multiple new queens that would have gone on to establish new colonies next year. This makes the event particularly catastrophic.”

Safari, the brand name of the toxic pesticide, has been confirmed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture to be the cause of the bee deaths.

ODA has confirmed that the bee deaths are directly related to a pesticide application on the linden trees conducted last Saturday, June 15 to control aphids. The pesticide product Safari was used in that application. Safari, with its active ingredient dinotefuran, is part of a group of insecticides known as neonicotinoids. According to investigators, the insecticide was originally applied to control aphids, which secrete a sticky residue while feeding, and can be a nuisance to parked cars. Dinotefuran and other neonicotinoids are a relatively new group of insecticides that are long-lasting in plant tissues. Because of this, the scientists are now concerned about whether the trees will still be toxic next year when they flower again. Emergency measures to prevent further bee deaths were taken today by staff from the ODA, Xerces, and the City of Wilsonville. By the end of the day all of the trees will be covered with large nets to prevent bumble bees and other pollinators from reaching the flowers. http://www.xerces.org/...
Licensed-pesticide operators would be in violation of the regulation if they use the pesticide during the temporary restriction. The restriction will be reassessed after the investigation of the incidents is completed, which could take as long as four months.

Scientists knowledgeable about the threats to pollinators are expressing heightened concerns about the significance of the Wilsonville bee massacre.

“The cost of losing pollinators far outweighs any value of controlling aphids on ornamental plants,” said Mace Vaughan, Pollinator Conservation Director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “After the events of last week, and based on the overwhelming science demonstrating the harm that these products can cause, we are calling on city and county governments to immediately stop the damage.”

The University of Minnesota’s Dr. Marla Spivak, a leading global authority on bee health, echoed Vaughan’s sentiment. “The Oregon bee poisoning is a clear warning. We have to stop pesticide use in cases where human health or food security is not at risk.”

Spivak points out that neonicotinoids are now the most widely used insecticides in urban and agricultural areas. “They are long-lasting in soil and they readily move into water. If the Oregon event is an indication of what is happening more widely, we will begin to see catastrophic threats to food security and the pollination of wild plants.”  http://www.xerces.org/...

The ban, despite being quite limited in scope and duration, is a step forward, and is good news to environmentalists and beekeepers, who have been pressuring to no avail the Food and Drug Administration to ban the neonicotinoids, which have been implicated in numerous studies to contribute to Colony Collapse Disease, which has caused unprecedented yearly die-offs in bee colonies around the world. Many commercial beekeepers lost 50% of their hive inventories during the 2012-2013 winter, which is devastating to the bee industry. While the causes of the problems bees face are complex, the evidence, supported by a number of studies, points to the neonicotinoids as a major factor in declining bee populations. Beekeepers and environmentalists have filed a lawsuit against the FDA to compel them to act.

Maybe if enough states step in, the FDA will be compelled to take notice.

Meanwhile, the European Union has banned three neonicotinoid-based products for two years, while the situation is assessed. The three neonicotinoids are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam.

“It is time to take a stronger stance on pollinator protection. The European Union has put restrictions in place on several neonicotinoids, and Ontario, Canada has gone further and banned all pesticides for cosmetic use,” said Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society. “We need a similar response here.”
Memorial Service

A memorial service for the bees is to be held this Sunday at the Willsonville Target parking lot.

On Sunday June 30, 2013 at 2:00 PM, please join us at the site where an estimated 50,000 bees were killed by humans who sprayed the toxic pesticide, Safari. We will memorialize these fallen lifeforms and talk about the plight of the bees and their importance to life on Earth. If you are passionate, concerned, or curious about this situation, this will be a good opportunity to communicate with others.

As you may know, this is a very crucial moment for bees, as they are dying in the millions, unnaturally, worldwide. Their unnatural deaths are being caused by humans applying chemical pesticides to the earth and its plants. In addition to the injustice and brutality of this situation for the bees that are being killed, there are far-reaching effects for humans, who rely on bees to pollinate our crops. It is widely agreed that the endangerment and extinction of bees will have devastating consequences for humans and other lifeforms, which makes this an urgent opportunity to honor them and advocate for them.

Please participate in this memorial, and help us to spread the word by inviting others. Please message the event organizer, Rozzell Medina, at wilsonvillebees@gmail.com if you can help to coordinate the event by volunteering an hour or two during the week leading up to the event. Also, please post if you are driving from Portland, Eugene, etc. and have space available in your vehicle.

Some closing thoughts...

As an Oregonian beekeeper, this news story is particularly of great concern to me. These incidents occurred in the greater Portland area, which is where I have my bees located, and thus it demonstrates the degree to which the neonicotinoids are used in my general environment. 50% of my bee colonies perished last winter, which is a personal loss to me.

I'm a third generation beekeeper, was raised by a beekeeper father, and have been intimitely involved in bees since I was 4 years old, when my father took me up the winding forest roads of the Puerto Rican mountains to his apiaries. I grafted bee larvae into queen cell cups when I was 5 or 6, helping my father with his queen raising business.  And now, in my 50s, so many years later, I have had hopes of expanding my small inventory of hives to a commercial operation in order to have a secure income as I get older in the years to come, in a job market that doesn't promise to rebound for years, especially for older people. I await no pension, no possibility of retirement, and recently lost just about everything. So this affects me profoundly.

I have a great fondness for beekeeping and bees, and love the work, which allows me to be outdoors in a natural, stress-relieving environment, tending my bees under the coniferous trees of the spectacular Oregon countryside.  The experience of opening a hive, smelling the aroma which wafts upward, a blend of the fragrances of beeswax, floral nectar, pollen, royal jelly and brood, and the pheromones of bees, transports me to the hive's inner sanctum of this wondrous insect.

So, do we want the price of melons, berries, pears, apples, almonds, and a long list of other food crops to shoot through the roof, becoming unaffordable to average people? Will we relegate one third of our food supply to the province of the wealthy class, out of reach of the pocketbooks of the rest of us? Is that the future we want?

Haven't the 1% been indulged enough? Must the bees be sacrificed too, in the name of capitalism and profiteering? Is there not one thing on this planet we can save from corporate destruction? Can we not agree, in the name of all that we believe to be good and just, to draw the line here, if no where else?

President Obama, order the FDA to ban the bee-killing pesticide! Please fight for their survival. You're the only one who can give the order to the FDA. Please act now.
Thank Xerces for their great work in protecting pollinators by signing their Pollinator Protection Pledge

All photos credited to Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian

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