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Bee-yond bee-lief: Weather kills bees

by Seaborn Larson
| July 12, 2013 2:14 PM

On June 22, it was 50,000 deaths at a Target parking lot in Wilsonville, Ore.

Then, 37 million others lost their lives one week later, this time in Elmwood, Ontario, Canada.

We are, of course, talking about bees.

Last week, Libby resident and key bee witness Suzette Bourcier reported that her son had noticed a startling number of dead bees on the side of Highway 2, 30-miles southeast of Libby.

“He was quite shocked,” said Bourcier. “They’re in pristine condition, frozen in that position.”

Tucker Zimmerman, Bourcier’s son, spotted the possible hundreds of expired bumblebees while walking home from fishing a creek near mile-marker No. 58. Bourcier and her son estimated about 10 bees per square foot, among moths and other insects.

Angela McLaury, co-owner of McLaury Apiaries, believes it is likely that an entire swarm was entrenched by a downpour of rain that would have drowned several hundred bees. She did note a growing fear for bees’ future survival, threatened by harmful insecticides.

“Those are our bees.” McLaury said. “If someone is spraying in that area, we would have to know about it.”

After a lot of buzz about the reports of bee slaughters in Oregon and Canada, the main suspect has recently been identified in the chemical compound known as neonicotinoid, a class of insecticide. Bayer Crop Science, an agricultural science firm, produces neonicotinoids. These insecticides are a neurotoxin, which attack the insect’s brain and are among the most widely used in the world to treat crops such as corn, soybeans and certain types of trees.

“We have to stop spraying the weeds (with chemicals),” said McLaury. “Bees provide a huge amount of food supply for us.”

McLaury Apiaries has established one hive every three miles of highway road in the northern tier of Montana. Sharing presentations to schools, special interest groups and the U. S. Forest Service has underlined her concerns for the bee population in nearby areas.

“Occasionally, we see a sign on someone’s mailbox about spraying (chemicals),” said Bourcier.

Bourcier said she was concerned about the swarm of health risks that come with exposure to such chemicals and how they might affect someone such as her son who often travels through wooded areas where insecticides have been applied.

Head of the Lincoln County Weed Department Dan Williams confirmed that neonicotinoids were not used in spraying the highway shoulders in early June, but instead used an industrial-grade herbicide.