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This week is National Pollinator Week, but you wouldn’t know it if you stepped into the Target parking lot in Wilsonville, Oregon. There, shoppers noticed thousands of dead bumblebees scattered across the asphalt below a few dozen linden trees. Throughout the week, bees continued to fall from the trees — experts estimate that a total of 25,000 bees have been killed at that location so far. Now, the Oregon Department of Agriculture is investigating whether pesticides are to blame.

Dead bumble bee, bee, bumble bee, dead bee, colony collapse disorderPhoto by Flickr user banalities

The parking lot is flanked by 55 blooming linden trees that may have been sprayed with the pesticide Safari. Safari is in the neonicotinoid family of pesticides, which are known to be toxic to bees; some studies have linked neonicotinoids to colony collapse disorderAs the Oregonian points out, the distributor’s website says that the pesticide is “highly toxic” to bees, and it warns users not to use it “if bees are visiting the area.” That warning doesn’t appear to have been heeded.

But investigators aren’t ready to point the finger at pesticides just yet. “We can’t say for sure that it is something that they put on the tree, because these trees are European Linden trees, which have been known to be toxic to bees,” conservation biologist Rich Hatfield told CBS News. Hatfield and other biologists with The Xerces Society collected bee samples from the parking lot to evaluate them in the lab. The Department of Agriculture is also conducting tests, which should provide a clearer picture of what’s killing the bees.

If investigators confirm that pesticide use is to blame for the bee deaths, the company that manages landscaping for the property could be facing a hefty fine. According to the Oregonian, fines for pesticide infractions run from $1,000 to $10,000.

Via Discovery News