Portland – The Oregon Department of Agriculture is investigating several Portland-area bee die-offs related to pesticides, as first reported by The Salem Statesman- Journal.
On Wednesday, beekeepers in Estacada and Sandy reported bees dying in the hundreds and thousands on their properties.
Matt Reed of the beekeeping company Bee Thinking went to his friend's Sandy home to check out her healthy beehive. Instead, he says they found around 20,000 dead bees.
"She was on the verge of tears," Reed said of his friend. "They are like her pets, they've become a part of their family. She loves them."
Many speculate that pesticide spraying of nearby tree farms could be the cause.
"It's pretty startling to see tens of thousands of dead bees in a hive that was healthy the day before," Reed said.
The Estacada and Sandy incidents came a day after 1,000 bees died suddenly outside a Eugene apartment building.
The die-offs have alarmed many people, due to the fact that insects, particularly honeybees, pollinate approximately one-third of the food consumed by humans.
On Friday, the ODA suspended the license of Glass Tree Care and Spray Service of Eugene. The company applied pesticides to Liden trees outside the apartment complex on Tuesday. They used the chemical spray containing imidacloprid and dinontefuran while the trees were in bloom, attracting pollinators, which was in violation of product restrictions, according to Bruce Pokarney of the ODA.
Last June, 25,000 bees died in Wilsonville due to pesticide spraying. The incident stirred local debate on the impact declining bee populations could have on local agricultural production.
The state warned of a type of insecticide called 'Neonicotinoid' last year, after the Wilsonville incident.
"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."
Several different contractors all sprayed Liden trees with the same type of pesticide in the Eugene and Wilsonville incidents.
Last year, a Portland woman held a memorial service for the Wilsonville bees. More than 100 people attended the service. Organizers described it as an opportunity to remember "these fallen lifeforms and talk about the plight of the bees and their importance to life on Earth.”