- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Department of Agriculture on Friday suspended the pesticide license of the tree care service responsible for spraying an insecticide blamed for killing 1,000 bees at a Eugene apartment complex.

Department spokesman Bruce Pokarney said Glass Tree Care and Spray Service of Eugene may also face a fine once the investigation is complete.

The company did not immediately return a phone call for comment on the action. But in an email to the Register-Guard (https://bit.ly/1iPYqbe ) newspaper before the suspension, company president J.P. Mischkot wrote, “We hold ourselves to the highest business and applicator standards, and take this matter very seriously.”

The dead bees were found after the company sprayed 17 linden trees in bloom earlier this week.

The department says the company should have known the pesticide had come under new restrictions after being linked to the deaths of thousands of bees after being sprayed on blooming linden trees at a parking lot in Wilsonville last year.

Investigators found mostly dead bumblebees but also some dead honeybees. The department said the pesticide was sprayed to control aphids, which cause a sticky mess on vehicles in parking lots.

The pesticide contained the same chemicals that were identified in the Wilsonville parking lot bee kill a year ago, Pokarney said. About 50,000 bees died in that incident. The active ingredients are imidacloprid and dinotefuran, a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids.

After that event, the state tightened label restrictions. The department acknowledged that older stockpiles of the pesticide would not have the new labeling restrictions on spraying linden trees in bloom, but given the amount of outreach the state did, the company should have known.

The product that was used in the Eugene case had an older label, which alerted applicators that it is “highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues,” the department said.

Pokarney said the company is cooperating with the investigation, and as one condition of regaining their license agreed to cover the sprayed trees with shade cloth to prevent more bees from being poisoned. Other conditions include having personnel recertified to handle pesticides, and developing a plan to prevent future problems.

Considering more bees likely died after they flew away, the toll is likely higher than was evident, said Lisa Arkin, executive director of a group based in Eugene, Beyond Toxics.

“Some of them were quivering and in convulsions,” she said. “It was awful to behold. We didn’t know whether to put them out of their misery or just walk on.”

In February, the Eugene City Council banned the pesticides from city property, winning the city the “America’s most bee-friendly city” honor.

The ban, however, doesn’t apply to private property.

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