Safari – it’s not just a web browser anymore…

Many of you have likely seen the articles recently on the huge bumblebee die-offs in Wilsonville, Oregon and Hillsboro, Oregon where as far as anyone can tell – blooming linden trees were sprayed with the insecticide Safari, which led to a massive die off (on the order of 50,000+ bumblebees, and other honeybees). In case you hadn’t…

There are numerous other articles that a quick Google search will allow you to track down, but in our little piece of Oregon – this has been pretty big news this past week.

I personally started keeping bees because of what I was reading regarding Colony Collapse disorder, and the dying off of pollinators worldwide. (I’d be lying if I didn’t also tell you that our own honey wasn’t a motivator) but realistically – out of the 100 most important staple food crops in the world, which provide 90% of the world’s population’s food – bees pollinate 71 of the 100.

Bumblebees and Honeybees are therefore extremely important organisms (and fascinating to watch)

Which is why when I see things like what happened in Wilsonville and Hillsboro, I get upset and frustrated.

Imagine my ire when I received a phone call from my wife today while I was at work, telling me – after work, you’ve got to get down to Chemeketa and Court Streets… there are a ton of dead bumblebees. Now – Chemeketa and Court are approximate 2.5 miles from the house – within the range of our girls if they want to work hard – I don’t know if there are any other Lindens on our end of town that could have been treated… but downtown Salem has a bunch of Linden trees, they line both sides of Chemeketa Street, line the front of the Capitol and down towards the courthouse on Court Street, and are sprinkled throughout the cities downtown. (They smell amazing right now – kind of a limey honey scent) which is why the trees are literally buzzing with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of bees, bumble and honey.

They’re all over the place.

Unfortunately, littering the sidewalks of the city today (not nearly in the numbers that we saw in Wilsonville and Hillsboro – at least not yet) were numerous dead bumblebees and honeybees. (The ratio of bumblebees to honeybees was significantly higher)

Now – basic principle of science… Correlation is not Causation. There are numerous bumblebees in the area, they are all pollinating these Linden Trees, sometimes bees die, or get so laden that they fall to the ground where they can get smashed – it’s possible that is all that happened, but with what happened in Portland, same trees, same bees, only variable is whether Safari was applied… I suppose time will tell. I have a call into the guy with the city who is in charge of the spraying to see when these were last sprayed and with what.

I took some photos which I’ll place below. I also took a couple of videos of some odd behavior in the bees. One bumblebee just kind of wandered around aimlessly on the ground in circles, another was sitting in the grass doing repetitive cleaning behaviors when prodded. Most of the bees I came across today where clearly dead and laying on the sidewalk, in the bark dust, or in the grass, or twitching their last death throes. I probably counted a total of 50-75 between those two streets. Again, nothing like up north, but concerning nonetheless.


One of the first dead bumblebees I found.


2 within 18 inches of one another.


One of the Linden Trees in Question

Bumblebee wandering around aimlessly:

Repetitive Cleaning Behaviors

Hopefully nothing more than a few dead bees that were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and not the beginning of something more significant, only time will tell.


3 thoughts on “Safari – it’s not just a web browser anymore…

  1. OMG! This is so sad for me to watch. Of course you already know how much I love bees, how important they are, but this almost made me cry. It is a complete disregard for … Well, crap for food, nature, insects.. ect. I will never understand why people do this kind of thing. I’m sure they sprayed something. We have bad mosquitoes where I live and the truck drives through the nieghborhood, spraying God knows what intot the air (no one asked my permission, I’m just force to breathe it in). Apparently we have fireflies, too, which I have never seen because whatever they spray for mosquitoes is also killing fireflies all over the country. It sickening. 😦

    • Same here – because one of the trees out front is “the city’s” we don’t have a choice – once yearly we get the notice they will be spraying, what they’re using… Etc… But don’t have a say in it. Mostly aphid control…

      When it starts affecting the food supply – it’s definitely time to take notice.

  2. Alright! So here’s what I was able to find out:

    Yes. These trees were treated, however – in January and February with a systemic trunk style treatment called Imidacloprid. The tree uptakes the pesticide, spreads it throughout the branches, leaves, etc.. and it continues to kill bugs that suck the sap of the tree for a while.

    Supposedly however – this is the recommended treatment for the dinotefuran class of neonicotinoid pesticides. (Sounds as though they are the same class of pesticide as the flea and tick medication you put on dogs and cats).

    According to Wikipedia, the toxin in trees such as Lindens, the toxin can move into the flowers specifically – and can be transferred to bees in low doses. (apparently from what I observed however, those low doses were enough)

    So a slightly different situation than up in the Portland area – the Wilsonville bees were killed due to improper application of the pesticide Safari – it was sprayed prior to bloom – and was highly concentrated on the trees when the bees came to pollinate. The warning label on the product directly warns against this – and states explicitly that the product is very dangerous to bees.

    The City of Salem, according to the person I spoke with contracts out their spray and treatment services to a private company, and that private company uses a different neonicotinoid, called Imidacloprid, which is the one that has been most linked to CCD in honeybees through various studies.

    I didn’t see anymore dead bees over the days following – it’s possible with the sheer number of pollinators that this was just normal mortality – just wore out mid-flight and dropped to the sidewalk. In my non-xerxesologist (new word) opinion, I think that it’s unlikely given the specificity to the bumblebees and the numbers… but it didn’t manifest itself as the catastrophe that I feared. So I’m thankful for that.

    Makes me curious if there is a way to encourage the city to use something different than Imidacloprid as a treatment – in particular on the linden trees…

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