Friday, the Oregon Department of Agriculture suspended the licence of Glass Tree Care and Spray Service of Eugene for its involvement in the death of about a thousand bees. The company is in hot water because workers used a chemical pesticide spray on trees outside of an apartment complex while the trees were still in bloom. According to Bruce Pokarney of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the tree care company sprayed the flowering trees while they were attracting bees, in violation with the product’s labeling. By law, companies must follow pesticide labeling instructions.
A day after the death of those bees, beekeepers in Estacada and Sandy, Oregon reported the sudden death of hundreds of thousands of bees on their properties. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is now investigating several beehive deaths that they believe are related to neonicotinoid pesticides around the Portland, Oregon area.
The Oregon beekeepers are reporting sudden colony deaths in otherwise healthy beehives. When Matt Reed, of the company Bee Thinking, went to his friend’s home to look in on her beehive, he said that he found upwards of 20,000 dead bees that were healthy the day before. Neonicotinoid use is believed to be the cause in these bee deaths as well, but investigations continue. “She was on the verge of tears,” Reed said of his beekeeping friend. “They are like her pets, they’ve become a part of their family. She loves them.”
“It’s pretty startling to see tens of thousands of dead bees in a hive that was healthy the day before,” Reed told King 5 News.“The bees have no idea these chemicals are in the nectar that they are sucking in these plants,” Reed said. “They take it back to their hive and feed it to their young, and it will kill an entire colony.”
Last June, 50,000 bees died in Wilsonville, Oregon from pesticide spraying. A local debate erupted from the deaths of those bees about the use of neonicotinoids. Last summer’s bee deaths in Oregon was reportedly caused by the same error of spraying blooming trees. Beekeepers say that the companies should have learned their lesson from last year’s bee deaths.
Friday, President Obama signed a memo ordering a plan for protecting pollinators like honey bees. “The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment,” Obama wrote. Oregon has been ahead of most of the country in regards to environmentally friendly agriculture. This spring, two counties in Oregon banned the cultivation of GMOs within their county lines.
The Glass Tree Care and Spray Service employee involved must retake and pass examinations, the company must cooperate with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and the company must provide a written plan for preventing similar errors before the company’s license will be reinstated. Pokarney said the department is considering more significant enforcement as well. “We’ve given information to all of our pesticide licensees. We’ve made a great effort to talk about pollinator protection,” Pokarney said about the tree service company. “They should have known better.” The Oregon Department of Agriculture added that the bee deaths were preventable.