After Over 50,000 Bees Killed, Group Calls for Halt on Some Insecticides

June 27, 2013 Updated: June 27, 2013

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is calling on a halt to “cosmetic insecticide use” after an incident in an Oregon town left over 50,000 bumblebees dead last week.

An insecticide, dinotefuran, also known as Safari, caused the deaths, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The insecticide is used to control aphids, which secrete a sticky residue while feeding, potentially causing harm to cars and people.

The group of chemicals that Safari is in, neonicotinoids, remain a long time in plant tissues, and have been connected to the global decline of honey bees, according to the Xerces Society. The use of such cosmetic chemicals should stop after this latest incident, and amid reports of bees dying in Hillsboro, Oregon from the same chemical.

“The cost of losing pollinators far outweighs any value of controlling aphids on ornamental plants,” said Mace Vaughan, pollinator conservation director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, in a statement. “After the events of last week, and based on the overwhelming science demonstrating the harm that these products can cause, we are calling on city and county governments to immediately stop the damage.”

Dr. Marla Spivak, a leading global authority on bee health and Apiculture/Social Insects professor in the Department of Entomology, echoed Vaughan’s sentiment. “The Oregon bee poisoning is a clear warning,” she said in the statement. “We have to stop pesticide use in cases where human health or food security is not at risk.”

The society said the response by the city of Wilsonville–wrapping the damaged trees with netting to try to keep any other bees from dying–and from other cities in the northwest is encouraging, but more needs to be done.

“It is time to take a stronger stance on pollinator protection. The European Union has put restrictions in place on several neonicotinoids, and Ontario, Canada has gone further and banned all pesticides for cosmetic use,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, in the statement. “We need a similar response here.”

All neonicotinoids and other insecticides should be banned for cosmetic purposes, and the Environmental Protection agency should re-assess the ecological safety of such chemicals, according to the society. It will be following up with mayors, city councils, and county commissions across the United States asking them to take action.

The society also asks homeowners to check a list of neonicotinoids it has on its website and dispose any people might have.

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