bees in the news pesticides

Let’s spray the trees while they bloom! Great idea!

You have probably heard by now that 25,000 bumble bees were killed last Saturday in a shopping center parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon. The parking lot is home to 55 European linden trees which were sprayed for aphids in spite of being loaded with bumble bees. The Oregon Department of Agriculture said, “tests on bees and foliage showed the deaths are directly related to a pesticide application on linden trees.”

The various articles I read say that, “an investigation is underway to see if the application of the pesticide Safari violated the law.”

So while state officials go about this so-called “investigation,” you can go online and find a copy of the label. It says, “This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees are visiting the treatment area.”

So what is the problem? Did the responsible party decide that linden trees are not “blooming crops or weeds?” I have to admit the wording is poor. Still, it’s not rocket science to conclude that if Safari will kill bees on blooming crops or weeds, it might also kill them on flowering trees. Stupidity infuriates me.

By the way, the active ingredient of Safari is dinotefuran, which is—no surprise—a neonicotinoid. Will the insanity ever stop?



  • The story is stomach-turning, at least for me. So many fingers are going to be pointed, and to what end? It’s a tragedy for the bees and for us.

  • Rusty,

    I had NOT heard. Now I wish I hadn’t.

    But here’s my (nitpicking) two cents:

  • 1. To a landscaper, blooming linden trees most certainly ARE a “crop.”
  • 2. One lesson (were the aphids THAT bad??) is to choose native landscape plants that won’t be so susceptible to pests, as to require spraying.
  • I am going back to read Wendell Berry’s “The Second Coming of the Trees.”


  • Maybe Oregon Department of Agriculture’s primary “investigation” at the moment is to identify and convene with all of the involved legal firms associated before making any statements or conclusions. Of course, they will not hesitate to unscientifically suggest that “unknown factors” may have led to the die off.

    Maybe they will get lucky and this will all be forgotten by something else in the news. Doubt it. Isn’t this ironic that we are on the cusp of National Pollinator Week?

  • Thanks Rusty.

    This is awful. Do you have who to contact at the Oregon authorities about this? I was raised and educated in Oregon although now in WA. All of my 3 colonies failed last winter. Pesticides? Don’t know. We need to stop the crazy.


  • Truly tragic. These trees weren’t even producing crops, they’re just in a car park. Since when can’t trees cope with aphids? Why is the idea of having insects on trees so scary?

  • The fact remains that consumers apply more toxic systemic pesticides than commercially used to the tune of millions of pounds. The consumer market is also completely and totally unregulated and highly prone to abuse. These poisons are sold at every big box store and hardware store across the nation and folks buy by the 3-5 gallon container. Most have the mind set that if some is good, MORE IS BETTER!! Beekeepers, IMO, have the fiduciary responsibility to educate and remind their friends, family, and neighbors that pesticides, especially systemics, should be avoided at all costs. Any plants in the area where systemics are applied become pesticide expressing factories killing pollinators and aphids alike. From the roots to the nectar and pollen, systemics poison every part of the plant, and for honey bees…it’s a death sentence during winter as the colony feeds on tainted stores all winter to only perish in spring just weeks away from fresh food sources.

  • Originally, 25,000 bees were thought to have died. But a closer inspection by the Xerces Society puts the number at more than 50,000 bees.

  • On an entomology listserv I’m on, another possible factor that was brought up was that linden trees have a mannose rich nectar that can intoxicate and kill bumble bees because they lack the enzymes to process mannose. But even if that’s part of it, would as many bees have died if they didn’t spray the trees? Probably not.

    I can email you the linden toxicity study if you’re interested.

    • I wonder if that helps account for the majority of the deaths being bumblebees? My husband was wondering about that, since honeybees purportedly love linden flowers too. The reports I read mentioned there were a only a few honeybees.

  • Why in the world would they need to spray linden trees? I grew up in a country where they grow everywhere and I’ve never heard of a single one being killed or harmed by pests. I would agree with the statement that if a plant is not able to survive on its own in a certain environment it probably doesn’t belong there.

    • If they just let things alone, creatures like hover flies and ladybugs would eat the aphids . . . what we used to call the “balance of nature.” Are there people out there who really believe mankind can survive after we kill everything else? I don’t know how people think, or maybe they just don’t bother.

  • One of my best friends, is preparing his house for sale and is going to have a professional restore his flower beds and spray them so weeds never grow there again -(my interpretation, saturate everything with Round-Up). I tried to discourage him, but so far haven’t had any luck. sigh…

    • Julie,

      Tell him that spraying will discourage some buyers. Many people who eat and buy organic do not want pesticides in or around their home. Let the buyers decide what type of poisons they are willing to live around, not the seller.

  • I planted five linden Trees (scientific name Tilia, commonly called basswood in U.S., lime in Britain) this year as I knew honey bees were quite fond of the flowers. Afterwards, I saw on a list of pollen sources that Linden is possibly toxic during times of drought. Today I found an nectar composition study that explains why. To quote from NECTAR CHEMISTRY by SUSAN W. NICOLSON and ROBERT W. THORNBURG “High mannose levels in the nectar of lime trees (Tilia) during drought conditions may be due to unusual phloem sap composition, and are toxic to honeybees (Crane, 1977), owing to low activity in these insects of the enzyme mannosephosphate isomerase (Sols et al., 1960).” In other words the bees can not process the monosaccharide mannose. This has nothing to do with the bumble bees at the Target store in Wilsonville, Oregon which were obviously killed by insecticide but may explain a similar die off in Hillsboro, Oregon where 1 tree out of 200, that were sprayed in March, is proving toxic to bees.

    • Red,

      In another study by Pawlikowski in the Journal of Apicultural Research, it was found that only 5-8% of those bumble bees visiting Tilia spp. were affected by the high mannose levels.

  • So are we saying we should not plant Linden trees around my property as food for honey bees? I have been contemplating this but now I am not certain what to do.

    • I think it was chiefly bumble bees that had trouble with linden, and only a small percentage of them. From what I’ve read, honey bees are good with linden (basswood) trees. According to, “It is a premier honey that has been enjoyed for thousands of years. At the height of blossoming in a linden grove or on a street lined with linden trees, the ambrosial aroma of the tiny yellow-white flowers surrounds you and draws bees from miles around.”

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