June 30, 2013
Shoppers at a local Target store in Wilsonville, Oregon, just outside of Portland were shocked recently to step outside the big box depot into a sea of already dead and dying bumblebees. As reported by KATU.com news, more than 25,000 dead bumblebees were found littered around the store’s parking lot during National Pollinator Week, a direct result of European Linden trees located in planters throughout the same parking lot having been sprayed with a highly toxic insecticide known as Safari.
European Linden trees produce luscious flowers that are rich in both nectar and pollen, which is a major draw for bumblebees and other pollinating bees during bloom season. And these same trees, which are plenteous in the Wilsonville Target’s parking lot, are a major destination for local bumblebees who feed on their nutrients and help pollinate other plants.
But the property manager of the strip mall where the Wilsonville Target is located apparently had other plans for these bees, as he or she reportedly ordered that all the trees be sprayed with an insecticide chemical known as Safari, even though it is currently bloom season. According to the information page created for Safari by its manufacturer, Valent Professional Products, Safari is a broad-spectrum insecticide that kills all sorts of insects, including bees.
“To our knowledge, this is one of the largest documented bumblebee deaths in the Western U.S.,” Rich Hatfield, a conservation biologist at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation (XSIC), is quoted as saying in a recent press release. “It was heartbreaking to watch. They were literally falling out of the trees.”
European Linden trees improperly sprayed with chemicals during pollination season
Hatfield and his colleagues collected bee samples from the Target parking lot on June 19, and later analyzed them to determine their cause of death. According to XSIC Executive Director Scott Hoffan Black, indiscriminate use of Safari was clearly to blame, as the chemical is never supposed to be sprayed during pollination season.
“It seems a landscape company did not follow label directions as [Safari] is not supposed to be sprayed during bloom,” Dan Hilburn, Director of Plant Programs at the Oregon  Department of Agriculture (ODA) is quoted as saying by RT.com. “We now assume this is the cause of the massive bee die-offs. Lots of bees still dying — almost all bumblebees.”
Reports indicate that ODA has also collected its own bee samples to test for pesticide exposure. ODA officials have since stated that they have never seen anything like this as far as bee deaths are concerned, and that the event is particularly ominous as it occurred during National Pollinator Week, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiative that takes place annually from June 17-23.
“I’ve never encountered anything quite like [this] in 30 years in the business,” added Hilburn.
Some local residents claim bees were deliberately murdered
Meanwhile, many local residents are outraged about the incident. Even though ODA is in the process of determining the next appropriate course of action to protect the remaining bees, which may include covering the trees  with nets or applying bee repellant, some in the community are demanding answers, including an explanation from the property manager about the sprayings.
“This was not a ‘die-off'; it was a mass murder,” commented Rozzell Medina on the KATU.com article. “If anyone is interested in helping others to organize an onsite memorial for these murdered bees in the next couple of weeks, please join the Facebook group Wilsonville Bees Memorial.”