How you can help prevent another mass bumble bee die-off

bumble bee photo
© AFP/Getty Images

Last week we wrote about the terrible news of the largest mass bumble bee killing, which happened in an Oregon parking lot. The cause was determined to be the spraying of Safari, a pesticide, on 55 trees around a Target parking lot. The pesticide was used for cosmetic reason, and possibly -- though this is still under investigation -- against the label guidelines for use. Over 50,000 bumble bees, along with many bees, ladybugs and other insects, were found dead and dying. While we can't magic them back to life, there are things we can do to help pollinators and move a few steps closer to not allowing this to happen again.

The Xerces Society writes, "Many of you have contacted us outraged over the mass killing of bumble bees from pesticide poisoning in Wilsonville, OR. You have the power to protect bumble bees and other pollinators from pesticides."

Two things you can do right now is to first participate in the Bring Back the Pollinators campaign. The campaign aims to make more yards and gardens safe environments for pollinators -- pesticide free and filled with flowers that attract pollinators. In 2005, NASA did a study showing that 49,000 square miles of the US is covered in lawns, making it the largest irrigated crop in the country. Imagine if all that was converted to pesticide-free pollinator habitat, from flower gardens to fruit and vegetable patches. Bees and butterflies might once again have a fighting chance.

The second thing you can do right now to help pollinators is to memorize this word: Neonicotinoids. Now avoid any product with them in it. As Xerces Society notes:

"Neonicotinoids are a group of insecticides that are used widely on farms, as well as around our homes, schools, and city landscapes. Used to protect against sap-sucking and leaf-chewing insects, neonicotinoids are systemic, which means they are absorbed by the plant tissues and expressed in all parts, including nectar and pollen. Unfortunately, bees, butterflies, and other flower-visiting insects are harmed by the residues. Extremely concerning is the prolific inclusion of these insecticides in home garden products. Home garden products containing neonicotinoids can legally be applied in far greater concentrations in gardens than they can be on farms – sometimes at concentrations as much as 120 times as great which increases the risk to pollinators."

Doesn't sound like something you want to use, right? Especially when a little soapy water can just as easily take care of a problem like aphids, without the deadly consequences for beneficial insects. The group has a list of what products contain neonicotinoids so you can more easily avoid using them in your garden.

Meanwhile, Grist notes that the Xerces Society is sending letters "to local and state agriculture departments across the country, urging them to end the use of neonicotinoid insecticides on trees, lawns, and for other cosmetic purposes on lands that they manage." There is already such a ban in place in Europe.

Tags: Animals | Bees | Conservation | Gardening | Insects

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