Wait…insecticides kill bees? Well color me flabbergasted!

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of posts regarding the loss of 25,000 bees in Oregon.  One site that was shared with me says the death toll has risen to 50,000 however I have not seen any other sources citing this.  It may well be true.  But this isn’t the problem many are making it out to bee (get it?  Bee?  Yeah, I know…stick with the science).   Here’s the scoop on what happened…

The Linden trees apparently had aphids and the company that owns/leases that parking lot (Target) called in a company to treat the aphids.  The company used a product called Safari a very common and quite effective insecticide.  The active ingredient is Dinotefuran which, if you’ve read some of my previous posts you know it is used in a lot of insecticide products include Vectra, a flea treatment for some pets (do NOT use Safari on your pets!!!!!!!).    If you read the label for Safari, this is what it says regarding bees:

“This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees are visiting the treatment area.”

So what happened that caused these bees to be killed?  The company, not complying with label instructions applied this insecticide to blooming trees which were clearly being pollinated by the bumble bees.  The bees came in to obtain pollen from the trees, were exposed and then died.  These deaths have nothing to do with what is termed Colony Collapse Disorder.  How do I know?  Because these are bumble bees, not honey bees.  Apis mellifera (The European Honey Bee, which we use for our pollination services in this country) are what have been associated with CCD.

Bumble Bee (Bombus terrestris)

The European Honey Bee (sometimes called The Western Honey Bee). Apis mellifera

The Oregon Dept. of Agriculture as well as the manufacturer of Safari are presently determining what to do in regard to the company.  Whatever they decide we clearly have a problem here.  Not with insecticides, but with how these products are used and treated.  Did these people make a simple mistake and not know?  Well, as someone who had to apply herbicide for an organization before, I can tell you they were negligent in their duties as we were required to read ALL labels of the different herbicides we were going to use.  You also have to be state certified (study and pass a test) in order to apply most of these products, especially on a commercial level.

Were they fully aware of the potential damage that could be done and they just didn’t care?  I doubt malice was a factor…who goes out and says, “I’m gonna kill some bees today!?!”  No one.

No, the reality of the situation is probably much simpler yet in application, more complex.  It comes from a misunderstanding of pesticides and how they interact with the environment.  Where does that come from?  A lack of scientific literacy…as well as a need for the all mighty dollar.

Supposedly nets have been place to help prevent further bee deaths but this could easily have been avoided by following label instructions and selecting the appropriate treatment methods which can include non-synthetic chemical methods.  However, those methods are typically more expensive or just plain old more time intensive.  But sometimes taking that extra time is worth it.  And in this case, I would say adding an extra hour to the shift would have been preferable to a potential lawsuit.

***Note: After posting this I would like to add that it is possible that the company didn’t know the bees were pollinating the trees.  If they went out on a cool day when the bees weren’t flying it is possible they didn’t notice them.  Please keep that in mind.

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5 thoughts on “Wait…insecticides kill bees? Well color me flabbergasted!

  1. While this is technically true: “Because these are bumble bees, not honey bees. Apis mellifera (The European Honey Bee, which we use for our pollination services in this country) are what have been associated with CCD.”

    Bumblebees are slated for extinction with in the next 10 years due to the same mechanism that is CCD (ie, pesticides). http://theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/scientists-alarmed-as-bumblebee-numbers-plunge-worldwide/ Bats, hummingbirds, and butterflies too. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/16/opinion/the-dying-of-the-monarch-butterflies.html

    http://www.esa.org/ecoservices/poll/body.poll.scie.decl.html All pollinators are effected by these pesticides.

    So why aren’t they banned? Corruption in Washington – of course.

    • I addressed your comments in my most recent post. To summarize: There’s far more to it than just pesticides. Take a breath and keep researching. Let’s save those bees and be sure to do it sanely and effectively.

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