The Results Are In…

Oregon Department of Agriculture has released their reports of the bee die-offs that occured this past year in West Linn, Wilsonville, Portland, and Hillsboro Oregon…

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Photo credit – Statesman Journal

http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20140123/GREEN/301230022/Report-shows-details-bee-death

The article confirms what many suspected at the get go – for those of you “TL;DR” folks out there… here’s the sum-up.

For the most part, in all of these circumstances, the insecticide in question – imidacloprid – was applied incorrectly. Dosages were wrong, application times not in accordance with packaged instructions, people applying in circumstances that they don’t have a license to apply for that circumstance… so it seems according to ODA’s reports that it was a situation of human error in the process RATHER than the actual pesticide itself causing the die-offs…

The fact is – these neonicotinoid pesticides are harmful to pollinators. There are other options… and other ways to go about it. The State of Oregon recently acted to ban 18 different neonicotinoid pesticides in the wake of this issue – but that ban expired December 24th… the good news is, Oregon is requiring an Oregon specific label that will go on these pesticides so that they can reduce the potential for this happening again – also enacting rules that don’t allow Linden trees (basswood) to be sprayed with these insecticides. Period. That will hopefully reduce the issues of the imidacloprid in the foliage and nectar which was killing the bees left and right in these situations.

What’s tough with putting the responsibility on the applicator is that there will always be some that don’t read the label, don’t dilute, and don’t follow the instructions, so the sad reality is, this will likely happen again. The labels will help, a ban would be better…

… but unfortunately, this is all too little too late for Jim Barlean of Barlean’s Honey – located in Milwaukie, Oregon… Jim lost the majority of his bees and his entire honey crop this year due to this issue – and as a backyard beekeeper, it’s concerning to me since we can’t really control where the girls are going… evidenced by the bright red honey discovered only a few weeks ago in my own hives from the cherry plant a few blocks away.

One of the best components of what I saw in ODA’s plan to combat this in the future was education efforts – showing people exactly what that random-stuff-they-bought-at-whatever-box-store-they-bought-it-at and are spraying all over their gravel paths, walkways, garden beds, fencelines is doing to flowers and the pollinators it’s being transferred to. Our pollinators have a hard enough go of it already and the toxic cocktail of pesticides, fungicides, and all the other ‘cides’ we’re tossing their way isn’t helping.

The documents that ODA has released to the Statesman Journal can be found below for your persual… There are 4 separate documents detailing their findings in each of the incidents that Oregon Department of Agriculture investigated.

West Linn Incident – Oregon Golf Club

Portland Incident – 200 Market Building

Wilsonville Incident – Jim Barlean

Hillsboro Incident – City of Hillsboro

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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…

http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2013/06/state_agency_temporarily_bans.html

http://portlandtribune.com/wlt/95-news/155347-pesticide-causes-largest-bumblebee-die-off-ever

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.

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One of the first dead bumblebees I found.

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2 within 18 inches of one another.

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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.