An Oregon parking lot became a mass grave for an estimated 25,000 bumblebees earlier this week, reported the Oregonian. More bees were still dropping from linden trees in the parking lot of a Target store as of mid-week.
"I've never encountered anything quite like it in 30 years in the business," said Dan Hilburn, director of plant programs in the Oregon Agriculture Department in the Oregonian.
The Xerces Society, an invertebrate conservation organization, stated that this was the largest mass death of bumblebees ever recorded in the United States.
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"Bumblebees are the single most important natural pollinator in Oregon," Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director for Xerces, told the Oregonian.
The blooming linden trees in the Target parking lot had been sprayed with Safari, a pesticide produced by Valent Professional Products, to protect the plants from aphid attack. However, the active ingredient in Safari was the chemical dinotefuran, an insect-killing poison chemically similar to nicotine. These nicotine-like pesticides, known as neonicotinoids kill bees, along with a wide range of other insects.
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Research at Harvard, Purdue and other universities suggested that neonicotinoids may be the culprits in the devastating colony collapse disorder, which has wiped out pollinators across the United States.
In Oregon, investigators from the state agriculture department are working to determine if Safari insecticide was indeed responsible for the bumblebee death. If so, the company responsible for applying it could be subject to fines from $1,000 to $10,000, if they violated state regulations.
IMAGE: A dead bee and ants (Hamed Saber, Wikimedia Commons)