The Perilous Life Of A Professional Honeybee

Aug 13, 2014
Cassandra Profita / Northwest News Network

The death and disappearance of  bees is raising questions and concerns from Northwest neighborhoods all the way up to the White House. Some attribute bee declines to the use of certain pesticides – especially after chemicals killed thousands of bees in Oregon. But as EarthFix reporter Cassandra Profita explains, researchers are still trying to determine how much of the nation’s bee problem stems from pesticide exposure.

Penalties In For Wilsonville Bee Deaths

Dec 20, 2013
Andreas. / Flickr

Penalties are in for a company implicated in the deaths of bumblebees in Oregon earlier this year. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has issued civil penalties to the pesticide company and its employees.

Jon Sullivan / Wikimedia Commons

The restrictions apply to the pesticide ingredients dinotefuran and imidacloprid. Officials say they believe those ingredients killed more than 50,000 bumble bees earlier this year when they were sprayed on trees that have their own natural toxicity.

Northwest beekeepers are applauding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for requiring certain pesticides to carry a clearer warning label. The idea is to prevent home gardeners and farmers from inadvertently harming beneficial pollinators, like bees.

The EPA directive applies to widely used bug killers, rose and flower treatments, and grub controls. Future product labels will have to carry specific warnings under a picture of a bee.

Ernie / Wikimedia Commons

An estimated 25,000 bumblebees were found dead in a parking lot in Wilsonville this week. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has confirmed the killer is an insecticide recently sprayed on nearby Linden trees.  In Eugene, an effort is underway to stop the use of the chemical in city parks.

A swarm of factors is causing heavy losses in honey bee colonies. That's the bottom line of a report issued jointly Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report identifies a parasitic mite as a leading culprit in combination with diseases, poor nutrition, genetics and pesticide exposure. People who care about bees here in the Northwest were underwhelmed.

For about seven years, many Western beekeepers have been plagued by unexplained die-offs in their hives. It happened recently to Mark Emrich.

"I was doing great until about five weeks ago," he says. "Then I came down and opened up the hives and I had five dead boxes of bees. That was a huge hit."

He lost one third of his production on his small farm near Olympia.

San Francisco State University

There's more trouble for your hard-working backyard honey bee. Researchers have confirmed the first cases of "zombee" bees in Washington state and in the Portland area. Infection by a parasite prompts the bees to embark on what's being called a "flight of the living dead."

Photo by Ashley Ahearn / Northwest News Network

Honeybees have run into some trouble. Diseases, funguses and pesticides are just some of the factors scientists believe may be contributing to the decline of these insects nation-wide. But honeybees play a critical role in pollinating everything from the Washington apple crop to the flowers in your back yard. Ashley Ahearn reports on one booming business that’s bringing bees back to the urban environment. Care to borrow a bee?