SALEM – The Oregon Department of Agriculture levied fines totaling $2,886 for the use of insecticides that killed tens of thousands of bumblebees in the Metro area this year. In the worst case, two companies were each fined $550 for spraying that killed 50,000 bumblebees in Willsonville in June, according to an official from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Scientist from Xerces said the Wilsonville bee die-off was the largest mass bumblebee death on record. The incident garnered intense public scrutiny and prompted the state to restrict the use of certain pesticide products after an investigation.
Some residents in Portland even organized a memorial for the dead bees.
It all started when bees started falling from a cluster of 65 European Linden trees near a plaza just off Interstate 5. The bees reportedly represented more than 300 wild colonies.
The ODA released a report citing insecticides, dinotefuran and imidacloprin as the agents responsible for snuffing out the bumblebees.
The fines were levied due to negligence on the part of the applicators, according to the Xerces Society, but officials from the wildlife protection group said the fines don’t go far enough.
“We commend the Oregon Department of Agriculture for taking immediate action to help wrap trees in Wilsonville in the aftermath of the massive bee kill, and for following up with use restrictions on linden and basswood trees,” said Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director of the Xerces Society. “But these minimal fines and loophole-filled labels show that stronger restrictions are needed if we are to help protect pollinators and other beneficial insects.”
Xerces is now supporting a bill, which is co-sponsored by U.S Congressman from Oregon Earl Blumenauer, calling for the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran and thiamethoxam for uses that could impact pollinators.