Less Dramatic Bee Kills Just as Bad
A few days ago, 50,000 bumblebees were poisoned by pesticides applied to linden trees outside a Target store in Wilsonville, effectively wiping out hundreds of bumblebee colonies. The Oregon Department of Agriculture determined that Safari, a neonicotinoid insecticide containing dinotefuran, was responsible for the poisoning. Application of pesticides to blooming plants visited by bees is contrary to product labeling, and hence an illegal activity. This incident exemplifies the problems that honeybees and native pollinators face in the age of neonicotinoid insecticides. In this case, the trees were sprayed on a Saturday and bees were still dying almost a week later. Neonicotinoids are designed to trans-locate into plant tissue and cause the plant itself to become toxic. Frequently these pesticides are applied as tree injections or applied in the soil so that tree will take up the toxin from its roots. These methods also kill bees just as dead, but without the drama of them dropping out of the branches into a parking lot. Instead they fly back home and spread the toxin to others in the colony before succumbing to its effects, dying without notice. When professional pesticide applicators don’t obey label instructions they should be prosecuted. The rest of us should not be able to buy these extraordinarily toxic compounds at retail outlets. Increasing popularity of neonicotinoid insecticides for home and ornamental use is making our urban areas unfit habitat for honeybees and native pollinators, where once they had a refuge from the chemicals in agricultural areas.