MINNEAPOLIS - A large-scale bee kill in Minneapolis is being blamed on exposure to a common insecticide.
The University of Minnesota's Bee Lab and Bee Squad, with help from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, says the kill that claimed the life of thousands of bees in mid-September, was caused by fipronil, an insecticide commonly used by commercial companies around the foundations of buildings. Fipronil is used to control a number of insects, including ants, Asian lady beetles, box elder bugs, wasps and yellow jackets.
Piles of dead and twitching bees were noticed in front of three honey bee colonies in the Kenwood neighborhood on September 12. U of M bee experts say while healthy honey bee colonies (numbering 40,000-50,000 members) experience a small loss of older bees daily, it is uncommon to see large numbers of dead bees accumulate outside of a colony.
The presence of twitching bees usually indicates exposure to pesticides. Samples of the dead bees were sent to a lab in North Carolina, where exposure to fipronil was confirmed.
Investigators from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture believe that the insecticide was likely used on a foundation and got on nearby plants or flowers: bees seeking nectar from those plants then carried the poison back to their hives.
It has been determined that local or state crews did not apply pesticides in that area around the time of the bee kill incident. Complicating the investigation is that there are 540 residential homes in the Kenwood neighborhood; Finding the commercial applicator or individual resident responsible for using the fipronil, perhaps improperly, may not be impossible.
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