In another incident, an estimated 50,000 bumble bees were found dead in a Target parking lot in Wilsonville, OR after a landscaping company sprayed 55 linden trees with the pesticide Safari to combat aphids. (Aphids can be controlled without insecticides, including by spraying infested plants with soapy water.) A full scientific investigation, including whether the pesticide was used correctly, will have to be done to determine what happened. Meantime Oregon has placed a temporary ban on 18 pesticides containing the chemical dinotefuran, a neonicotinoid. [To see Oregon’s banned list, which includes backyard consumer products, visit: www.oregon.gov/ODA/PEST/docs/pdf/DinotefLimitList06272013.pdf]
In April, the European Union placed a precautionary suspension for two years on the use of three neonics: clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam.
Given the risk, we believe that the idea of a moratorium makes sense in the U.S. as well. Certainly more scientific studies are needed, and this will take time. Meanwhile, how many more bees will die while the evidence is being gathered and assessed? How many bee deaths are acceptable?
We believe the numbers of bee deaths (not to mention the unassessed risk to other pollinators and aquatic insects) is already too high to continue the use of this chemical in the absence of scientifically verified evidence that it is safe to use. We believe that a moratorium is needed while an expedited, independently verified scientific review is conducted.
What can you do to help honey bees?
With a little research on the Internet, local farmers and home gardeners can avoid using neonics.
Finally, if you’re a beekeeper (or a keen observer of bees and their behavior), we’d like to know how your hives survived last winter and what you’re seeing this summer.