More than five months after about 50,000 bumblebees died en masse in Hillsboro and Wilsonville, Oregon Department of Agriculture officials have imposed labeling requirements and educational outreach plans designed to protect bees and other pollinators.
Starting in 2014, the ODA is requiring a label statement on dinotefuran and imidacloprid products sold in Oregon that prohibits application on basswood, Tilia and linden tree species.
The bee death controversy this year surrounded these products, which were applied to European linden trees that are known to be naturally toxic to bumblebees. According to ODA officials, the combination of the trees’ toxicity and pesticides contributed to the bee deaths.
Dinotefuran belongs to a group of chemicals called neonicotinoids.
An additional step includes education about pesticides to licensed applicators and the general public.
Increased emphasis will be placed on pollinator protection and pesticide safety in 2014 in the required testing and re-certification process for licensed pesticide applicators. To educate the general public, ODA officials are putting pesticide information on their website, reaching out to retail vendors of the products, and working with Master Gardener programs to spread accurate information about application and safety guidelines.
As the first state to take these restrictive steps, ODA director Katy Coba has sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requesting more in depth evaluation of the active ingredients in these products and other neonicotinoids.
The temporary rule adopted in June restricting the use of 18 pesticide products containing dinotefuran will expire next month.
The investigations into pesticide use related to the mass bee deaths are expected to be completed by mid-December.
To come to a definitive conclusion about whether the bees died from the pesticide application, scientists like Oregon State University’s Sujaya Rao would have needed to collect the trees’ nectar and pollen. But by the time scientists could get there, the tree blooms were already on their way out after an unusually warm and dry spring and summer.
In addition, extensive research has not been done to examine how long the chemical sticks around in the linden trees after they are sprayed.
During the summer, Rao said there were still a lot of questions to be answered and elements to consider.
After the incident, OSU researchers were investigating the effects of broad-spectrum neonicotinoids, such as dinotefuran, on native bees.
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