The Oregon Department of Agriculture and the Xerces Society were called to a Hillsboro site last week to investigate bumblebees found dead or dying along Southwest Washington Street.

In March, the city sprayed approximately 200 trees of different varieties in the downtown area with the pesticide “Safari.” The application was designed to fight aphids, which secrete a sticky sap. The city announced the spraying program at the time, explaining that organic control methods had been tried — but failed to control the HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Workers put a huge net over this tree in downtown Hillsboro in an effort to keep bees from getting near it. The tree was recently treated with the pesticide Safari, which has proven deadly to bumblebees and honeybees in the area.

Hillsboro Public Affairs Manager Patrick Preston said the city is working with the department and the Xerces Society — which advocates for preserving bees — to determine if the spraying caused the deaths.

“We take bees very seriously in Hillsboro,” Preston said.

On Saturday, city employees draped a net over one tree where the bee die-off had been especially pronounced to reduce the risk to bees as the investigation continued.

However, on Tuesday, more dead bees were discovered around the trees outside of a parking garage near the corner of First and Washington. The structure is owned by Washington County.

“You can see them hovering around the trees and coming down like crazy and flying in circles and dying off,” said Bassam Khalife, a county employee. “It’s very sad.”

Khalife questioned the reason for the city’s spraying program in the first place.

“They did it because the trees drip out sap and the spray apparently prevents that, but in the process it kills bees and all the pollinators,” Khalife said. “I feel bad for the bees. They do so much good for us.”

Earlier in the week, the Department of Agriculture and Xerces Society were called to Wilsonville after more than 55,000 bees from 300 separate colonies were found dead and dying near dozens of European linden trees that had recently been sprayed with Safari.

A news crew from Portland’s KOIN-TV was in Hillsboro as Dan Hilburn of the Oregon Department of Agriculture took samples of the leaves from the trees and picked up dead bees.

“We’ll analyze them in the same way, and perhaps we’ll find the same thing, although this is a little odd to have something like this in two places at the same time,” Hilburn said.

— Doug Burkhardt and KOIN-TV News contributed to this story.

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