Last Wednesday, shoppers at a Target in Oregon were shocked to find tens of thousands of dead bees littering the store's parking lot. Environmentalists and scientists, while initially baffled by the deaths, now believe the bees died because of exposure to an insecticide called Safari, which had recently been applied to the parking lot's trees.
Some shoppers notified the Xerces Society, a Portland-based organization dedicated to preserving bees and other insects.
"They were literally falling out of the trees," Xerces conservation biologist Rich Hatfield told Oregon's Fox 12. "To our knowledge, this is one of the largest documented bumble bee deaths in the Western U.S. It was heartbreaking to watch."
His partner at Xerces, Mace Vaughn, described the bizarre scene as devastating for the local bee population.
"Losing 25,000 or more bumblebees – we've lost a hundred, a hundred fifty colonies at least just from this area – just wiped them out," Vaughn told KATU. “This is a big mistake, somebody really screwed up,” he said to KGW.
Authorities worked quickly to cover the poison-covered European linen trees with netting. Bees, while sometimes prone to terrifying attacks in cities, are rapidly dying across the US. The Guardian reports that as many as 31% of honeybee colonies died out during late 2012 and in early 2013.
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