Bee kill in St. Paul, Minnesota

UPDATE for this blog here.

Yesterday morning, a woman and her friend were walking around downtown St. Paul. Next to a couple of small trees they noticed “snowdrifts of dead bees.” The woman contacted Dr. Marla Spivak and sent a couple of pictures showing thousands of dead bees. With the huge bee kill that went on in Oregon (read Liz’s blog here), we were all really worried something similar was going on. Marla went to investigate early this morning, as did the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Unluckily, there was a downpour of rain and they weren’t able to get a soil sample, but they did get a dead bee and leaf sample for pesticide analysis.

The bees were on two small oak trees, and were dead all over the ground. However, compared to the pictures from yesterday it did look like quite a few were cleaned up. What had probably happened was someone sprayed a swarm of bees that had landed in one of the small oaks. I don’t really know how they happened to get to the other tree, expect maybe they started to fly or go to the other tree as they were being sprayed.

It was a pretty terrible way to start a day. At least it looks like this was an isolated incident and not something more insidious like what happend in Oregon where many blooming trees were sprayed.

Location of bee kill in downtown St. Paul, MN.

Location of bee kill in downtown St. Paul, MN.

Dead bees under the first tree.

Dead bees under the first tree.

Dead bees under the second tree.

Dead bees under the second tree.

Close up of dead bees on ground.

Close up of dead bees on ground.

Written By: Katie Lee

Katie Lee has written 53 post in this blog.

I'm a part of the Midwest Bee Team based out of the University of Minnesota. I work with commercial migratory beekeepers in North Dakota and Minnesota to help them monitor pest and disease levels. Before I was on the Midwest Team, I was on the CA Bee Team working for the Northern California bee breeders. I was introduced to honey bees during my last semester as an undergrad when I took a class on social insects with Dr. Marla Spivak. Marla asked me to work in the U of MN Bee Lab over the summer, and have been enthralled with bees ever since. My main interests are bee breeding, Varroa, disease ecology, and extension work. I received both a BS in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior and a MS in Entomology from the University of Minnesota.

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9 Responses to “Bee kill in St. Paul, Minnesota”

  1. Lucinda Swenson

    I have photos of the same trees the night before (Sunday, July 7, 2013, 11:26 PM). The huge bee swarms were in two trees, but the photos are of only the south tree, since the swarm in the north tree was higher and more difficult to photograph. The bees were active on the outside of the swarms. Two fellows had come back to the spot to look at them again as we were walking by. They had not been sure of what the insects were when they spotted them buzzing in and around the trees a couple of hours earlier. When they returned to the area while we were there, the bees had swarmed together, clinging only to a branch and each other. The swarms were the size of an adult male torso. The fellows flagged down a police officer who looked with his flashlight. The bees were merely doing what they are programmed to do, but the location of the swarms made it a very dangerous situation for people in the vicinity. I am assuming someone did intentionally kill the bees overnight, prior to Monday morning traffic, since that area is extremely active with people walking.

  2. Katie Lee

    Thank you for the story of what actually happened! I shared your response with Marla. You are right, that is a super busy part of St. Paul with many pedestrians. It is unfortunate that the bees landed there and were sprayed, but understandable. That sounds like an enormous swarm. I would love a picture to add to the blog. Would it be possible to email me one (leex1444@umn.edu)? I will give you photo credit, of course.

  3. Marisa

    Do the St. Paul PD and City of St. Paul have information on who they might call to remove a swarm, rather than spraying them?

  4. Katie Lee

    They do have the contact information now, so hopefully this will be prevented in the future.
    Thanks,
    Katie