PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: LORI HALL - Rich Hatfield and Ashley Minnerath of the Xerces Society staple netting to cover linden trees where some 50,000 bees died in a Target parking lot.Oregon, which experience some dramatic mass bee deaths the past two years, is recognizing August 15 as Oregon Native Bees Conservation Awareness Day, after a proclamation was issued by Governor Kate Brown.

In her proclamation, Brown states: “Oregon’s native bees are essential pollinators in ecosystems that support the reproduction of flowering trees and plants, including the fruits and seeds that are a major part of the diet of approximately 25% of all birds and mammals.”

The proclamation was requested by Beyond Toxics, a Eugene-based environmental health nonprofit.

“I’m pleased that Oregon is the first state to formally acknowledge the importance of protecting wild and native bees,” stated Lisa Arkin, executive director of the environmental health nonprofit.

Five North American species of wild bees are suffering severe population losses and two are on the brink of extinction, according to Beyond Toxics.

Multiple massive bee kills in Oregon in 2013 and 2014 prompted environmentalists to call for a ban on the use of the use of a class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, blamed for many of the bee deaths.

In the most alarming incident, about 50,000 bumble bees in Wilsonville died suddenly in June 2013, which scientists traced to pesticides sprayed on linden trees on the Target department store grounds.

After lengthy review, the Oregon Department of Agriculture approved a more narrow ban on the use of the chemicals on linden, basswood or other Tilia species trees. “Conserving native bees through natural habitat preservation, enhancing pollinator gardens and reducing pesticides is something every Oregonian can do,” Arkin said. “The future of food and ecosystem diversity depends on it.”

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