Thousands of dead bees were found in a Target parking lot in Oregon this week, perplexing environmental experts as to what caused the massive die-off.
The dead bees were found Monday underneath dozens of European linden trees, with close to 25,000 bumble bees littered across the ground. Conservationalists at the Portland-based Xerces Society think the bees may have been poisoned by something in the tree or a pesticide, but say they don't know for sure.
The bees "were literally falling out of the trees," said Rich Hatfield, a Xerces Society conservation biologist. "To our knowledge this is one of the largest documented bumble bee deaths in the Western U.S. It was heartbreaking to watch."
The Oregon Department of Agriculture collected samples from the dead bees found in the Target parking lot, as well as nearby trees. They also found a number of other insects dead, including honeybees and beetles.
"If the trees are indeed toxic, they should be cut down and replaced by something that will provide non-toxic pollen and nectar for bees," said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. "On the other hand, if pesticides are the cause, we need to spotlight this real-world lesson in the harm these toxic chemicals are causing to beneficial insects."
This is not the only high-profile story about bee swarms as of late. In May 60,000 bees were found in a cabin in Utah and carefully removed. The bees, which the owner believes had been living there the past 17 years, but he was forced to have them removed when it came time to do some renovations.
Beekeeper Vic Bachman said it was the biggest one he’d ever seen in his years of beekeeping.
“We figure we got six kilograms of bees out of there,” said Bachman.
Conversationalists said the dead bees found in the Target parking lot in Oregon represented 150 colonies in all.