Documentary and panel discussion hoped to increase understanding of pollinator needs

SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - Crews worked after Wilsonville's 2013 bee die-off to cover trees with large nets that kept bees and other polluniators off the poisonous flowers.June 15, 2013, was a day that will live in infamy for many Wilsonvillians.

That Saturday was the day that an estimated 50,000 bees were found dead beneath some 65 European linden trees outside Target in Wilsonville, making it one of the largest documented bumblebee die-offs in the history of the United States. Insecticides applied out of season were identified as the culprit. The event was highly publicized, and focused the ire of activists around the country on Wilsonville. Several companies were fined in recompense.

So it makes sense that Wilsonville, as the site of one of the most visible cases of pollinator endangerment, should become a center of activism on behalf of bees.

“We’re kind of at the forefront of (pollinator conservation) because of the press that we got on the bumble bee issue at Target,” said Charlotte Lehan, who has the distinction of being both a Wilsonville City Councilor and an amateur beekeeper. “It makes sense for Wilsonville to take the lead on these kinds of things.”

Lehan began beekeeping around three years ago, which would have been before the die-off outside Target. She said that she has seen firsthand the impact that bees have on crop yield.

“I almost felt like I had to send an apology letter to the neighbors for the amount of fruit in their trees,” Lehan said of the first year after her brother-in-law introduced her to beekeeping. “It was just a phenomenal difference.”

Sharon Selvaggio, the Water and Wildlife program director with the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, is also relatively new to pollinator conservation.

“Until a few years ago, I never thought too much about pollinators at all,” she said. “The whole Wilsonville thing really opened my eyes.”

Selvaggio said that members of the Wilsonville community like Lehan have “expressed a real desire to put that whole incident (the bee die-off) behind them, and to emerge as leaders in conservation of pollinators.” Having begun to establish a relationship with the City of Wilsonville, Selvaggio reached out several months ago with an idea: a screening of an award-winning documentary on bee conservation directed by a local filmmaker, followed by a panel discussion with several influential Wilsonville pollinator conservation activists.

The film, which is called “Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?”, has been called “remarkable” by Roger Ebert. It was an official selection of the 2010 Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam and an Audience Award winner at the Maui and Indiememphis Film Festivals, and has received numerous other awards besides. SPOKESMAN FILE PHOTO - A bumblebee, one of many species of native pollinators in danger, prepares to land. 'Queen of the Sun: What Are The Bees Telling Us?' by Portland-area director Taggert Siegal, illustrates a story of pollinators in crisis.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful film,” Selvaggio said. “It explores not only the whole issue of the conservation of bees, but also their evolution and their historical importance to people.”

Moreover, the film’s director Taggart Siegel, who lives in the Portland Metro area, will be in attendance. Lehan hopes that Siegel’s presence will draw those with an interest in filmmaking to the event as well.

“People that are interested in film might want to come just to talk to the director about his next project,” Lehan said.

In addition to Siegel, Lehan and Kerry Rappold — the City of Wilsonville’s Natural Resources Director — will participate in the post-film panel discussion.

Lehan said that she most hopes that attendees will walk away with greater awareness of the challenges faced by pollinators, and of what they might do to help protect bees.

“It’s just a sort of raising of consciousness,” said Lehan. “To bring it more to the top of (viewers’) minds that what you use in your garden, and what you plant in your garden, the difference it makes.”

Selvaggio has similar hopes for the event. “I hope that people will learn, about not only the stresses that honey bees and natural bees are under, but what the City of Wilsonville can do to help preserve pollinators — both by preserving their habitats, and protecting their habitats by not over-using pesticides,” Selvaggio said.

"Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?" Wilsonville Public Library Wednesday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. For more information, visit the library website at

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..