A Target parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon, was the site of a massive bumblebee kill on Monday, June 17, the cause of which is still under investigation.
An estimated 25,000 bumblebees were found littering the ground, according to the Xerces Society, an insect conservation group based in Portland. Honeybees and beetles were also among the dead.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture is still investigating why the bees died, but the Xerces Society guesses that pesticide poisoning was at play.
On Saturday, a landscaping company sprayed an insecticide called Safari on dozens of European linden trees in the parking lot, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reports. Safari is a class of neonicotinoid pesticide that is highly toxic to bees.
The executive director of the Xerces Society, Scott Hoffman Black, believes the blooming linden trees were sprayed in error: “Evidently they didn’t follow the label instructions. This should not have been applied to the trees while they’re in bloom,” he told OPB. The bees wouldn’t have been present if the trees weren’t in bloom.
It’s also possible that the insects were killed by a poisonous species of linden tree, under which the thousands of lifeless bodies were found.
Rich Hatfield, a conservation biologist with the Xerces Society, began receiving calls from shoppers on Monday about clusters of dead bees in the parking lot. When Hatfield arrived at the scene, the bees “were literally falling out of the trees,” he said in a statement.
“To our knowledge this is one of the largest documented bumble bee deaths in the Western U.S. It was heartbreaking to watch,” Hatfield said.
The timing of the mass bee kill is interesting as it coincides with National Pollinator Week, an event designed to draw attention to the worldwide decline of bee populations. Bees are responsible for up to $200 Billion in agriculture, and a hypothetical world without them would be almost apocalyptic.
Below are pictures of the parking lot where the tragedy occurred.
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