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  • 23 Oct 2014

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Bumblebee incidents result in pesticide violations

ODA completes investigations, issues enforcement actions


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. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has completed its investigations into four separate incidents that resulted in bumblebee deaths this summer in Wilsonville, Hillsboro, West Linn and downtown Portland.

Investigations performed by the ODA Pesticides Program centered on the use of pesticide products containing two active ingredients, dinotefuran and imidacloprid. ODA’s findings identified violations of the Oregon Pesticide Control Law.

ODA issued six civil penalties totaling $2,886 in connection with the incidents. Oregon’s Pesticide Control Law establishes specific criteria to determine the dollar amount of civil penalties ODA can impose. Individuals receiving enforcement actions from ODA can contest the notice through an administrative hearing.

Three civil penalties being issued are connected to the largest of the bumblebee incidents, which took place in Wilsonville in June. In that incident, an estimated 50,000 bumblebees died following the application of dinotefuran on European linden trees in the Target parking lot. The other three civil penalties are connected to a smaller bumblebee incident on a landscaped business property in downtown Portland following the application of a pesticide product containing imidacloprid, also on linden trees.

For its role in the Wilsonville incident, Collier Arbor Care of Clackamas, a licensed commercial pesticide operator, has been issued a civil penalty in the amount of $555 for performing a pesticide application in a faulty, careless or negligent manner. The pesticide applicators in the incident, Mark McMullen of Beaverton and Sean Rinault of Woodburn, were each issued civil penalties also in the amount of $555. ODA’s investigation determined that the linden trees were clearly in bloom at the time of the pesticide applications.

The product label states that the pesticide is known to be hazardous to bees when applied onto flowering trees in bloom and should not be used under those conditions.

Collier Arbor Care has also been issued a civil penalty in the amount of $407 for applying a pesticide product inconsistent with its labeling in connection to the downtown Portland incident. ODA’s investigation determined that the application rate of the pesticide product was in violation of the label instructions. The pesticide applicators in the incident, Rinault and Ray Duval of Estacada, were each issued civil penalties also in the amount of $407.

ODA also investigated bumblebee incidents in Hillsboro and at the Oregon Golf Club in West Linn. ODA has issued notices of violation to Collier Arbor Care for incomplete pesticide application records and for employing a pesticide applicator who did not have the appropriate license. The applicator, Cirrus Striedieck of Portland, has also received a notice of violation. These notices are connected to the incidents in Wilsonville and at the Oregon Golf Club. No monetary fine is associated with these notices. However, the violations remain on the operator’s and applicator’s enforcement record for three years.

ODA found no evidence of wrongdoing in the Hillsboro incident.

However, the Portland-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conervation doesn’t think the fines are enough.

“Unfortunately, these small fines will do little to keep applicators from continuing to apply these pesticides in ways that harm bees,” said Aimee Code, pesticide program coordinator for Xerces Society. “Labels need to clearly prohibit uses known to be harmful, and violations need to be punished with larger fines.”

In addition to enforcement action, ODA has stated it has taken several measures to protect bumblebees and other pollinators from exposure to pesticide products containing dinotefuran and imidacloprid, the two active ingredients implicated in the bumblebee deaths.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.

The temporary rule adopted by ODA in June that restricted use of 18 pesticide products containing dinotefuran expired Dec. 24.

In its place, ODA has adopted permanent restrictions on the use of certain pesticide products containing dinotefuran and imidacloprid. As a condition of annual registration for 2014, ODA is requiring an Oregon-specific label statement on dinotefuran and imidacloprid products for use on plants.

Labels on these products being distributed into Oregon beginning Jan. 1 will prohibit the application on linden, basswood or Tilia species. It appears the tree species’ natural toxicity to bumblebees in combination with the pesticide contributed to the bumblebee deaths.

“We commend the Oregon Department of Agriculture for taking immediate action to help wrap trees in Wilsonville in the aftermath of the massive bee kill, and for following up with use restrictions on linden and basswood trees,” said Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society. “But these minimal fines and loophole-filled labels show that stronger restrictions are needed if we are to help protect pollinators and other beneficial insects.”

ODA is also expanding its 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.In addition, ODA Director Katy Coba sent a letter last month to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requesting additional evaluation of these pesticide active ingredients and other neonicotinoids to determine if use limitations on a national basis should be considered.

ODA’s pollinator incident web page can be found at oregon.gov/ODA/PEST/Pages/Pollinator.aspx.

The Xerces Society is also supporting the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which was sponsored by Congressman Earl Blumenauer (Dem.-OR). This act calls for the Environmental Protection Agency to suspend the use of imidacloprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran and thiamethoxam (four of the most toxic neonicotinoids) for uses that could impact pollinators until the EPA determines what uses are safe.

“This neonicotinoid ‘timeout’ is needed so we don’t continue to poison our pollinators while we decide where and when these insecticides may be safe to use,” said Black.