Officials say new labeling requirements will help prevent similar incidents
by: JOSH KULLA –
More than 50,000 bumblebees were killed in Wilsonville in June when a landscaping company applied Safari insecticide to blooming linden trees. Now state officials hope new labeling requirements for neonicotinoid products will help prevent similar incidents.
A temporary ban on the insecticide that killed more than 50,000 bumblebees and other pollinators in a Wilsonville parking lot has been lifted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Instead of a permanent ban on the use of dinotefuran, the insecticide applied to dozens of linden trees in the Wilsonville Target parking lot, the ODA announced last week it will instead require only that manufacturers of neonicotinoid-class insecticides apply new, Oregon-specific labels to their products.
The department is requiring specific label statements restricting the use of products containing the active ingredients dinotefuran and imidacloprid while strengthening outreach and education efforts to pesticide users on pollinator protection. These moves were announced at a Nov. 21 hearing of the Oregon Legislature’s House Interim Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“In response to last June’s large bumblebee deaths connected to the use of these pesticide products, our agency has come up with a good and comprehensive plan that we believe will minimize the chances of these incidents from taking place in the future,” said ODA Director Katy Coba. “We take these incidents seriously and we are stepping up both our regulatory and educational efforts.”
The temporary ban was imposed over the summer following an incident in Wilsonville, where a landscaping company applied dinotefuran with the brand name “Safari” to blooming linden trees. It applied to 18 specific products containing those chemicals.
The blooming linden trees attracted tens of thousands of bumblebees and other insects, which then were killed by the chemical. A smaller but similar incident also took place in Hillsboro just days after the mass bumblebee kill in Wilsonville.
Linden trees already contain naturally-occuring compounds that are toxic to bees and other pollinators. The addition of neonicotinoid chemicals during the blooming period only amplified that effect, the ODA said.
Instead of an outright ban, the state now will require that makers of neonicotinoid insecticides apply labels to product sold in Oregon specifying that such chemicals are not for use on trees in the Tilia genus, which include linden and basswood trees.
While environmental groups feel these restrictions do not go far enough, the Oregon Association of Nurseries views the lifting of the temporary ban as “reasonable.”
“(It) still allows growers and others to use the effective chemicals in a label-consistent and safe manner,” OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone said in a press release.
Coba also has sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requesting additional evaluation of neonicotinoids to determine if use limitations on a national basis should be considered.
Oregon’s agriculture department also announced expanded educational efforts on pollinator protection to licensed pesticide applicators and the general public. For applicators, additional emphasis on pollinator protection will be included in the required testing and recertification process to become licensed. Outreach to the general public will include information on ODA’s website as well as brochures and other materials distributed through master gardener programs and retail outlets.
The ODA says it still is investigating the mass-bee-kill incidents and a formal report is due later this month.