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Misuse of pesticide caused bumble bee deaths

The misapplication of pesticides on blooming linden trees caused the deaths of more than 50,000 bumble bees in Wilsonville, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Lab tests confirmed that the bees died from exposure to dinotefuran,which is the active ingredient in the pesticide Safari, made by the Valent Corporation. According to the instructions, the chemical should never be applied to a blooming tree full of pollinators. However, a contractor applied it June 15 in an attempt to control aphids. Officials haven't disclosed the identity of the contractor.

According to Rich Hatfield, a biologist with the Xerces Society, it was largest mass bumble bee death on record, representing more than 300 wild colonies. “Each of those colonies could have produced multiple new queens that would have gone on to establish new colonies next year," Hatfield said. "This makes the event particularly catastrophic.”

The city of Wilsonville, along with staff from the Xerces Society and the ODA, have been working feverishly to cover the trees with nets to keep the bees from coming into contact with the poison. Meanwhile, the state is attempting to determine if fines or other punishments are warranted.

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