The AP is reporting that a semi-truck hauling 460 bee hives (containing about 25 million bees) crashed on I-15 in Utah (The Beehive State). The trailer tipped over. The bees swarmed out of their hives, stinging the truck driver, his wife and first responders who helped them out of the truck.
The truck driver reported ripping off his shirt and swinging his clothes at the bees. This is not the best response, because swatting bees and smashing them will cause bees to release alarm pheromone and ecourage more stinging. Local beekeepers converged on the scene but they were unable to corral or save many bees or hives. Beekeeper and owner, Adee Honey Farms estimated the total loss at about $116,000.
The bees were leaving South Dakota to spend the winter in warmer, Bakersfield, California. Pollination services are an important business. Most fruit and nut trees are pollinated by honey bees. Many of these orchards do not have large enough populations of native pollinators to work all the flowers that bloom at about the same time. Hiring bee keepers to bring their hives into orchards can greatly increase the percentage of flowers pollinated, the number of fruits on each tree, total fruit production and profit for the growers.
Transporting the bees is necessary for large beekeeping businesses to be economically viable. Beekeepers sell pollination services in the Southern United States early in the spring. As the weather warms to the north and crops come into bloom, beekeepers will move hives progressively further north. At the end of the season, the bees return to the south and begin the circuit once more.
However, transportation is also known to stress the bees. A team of researchers in the UK are investigating the hypothesis that diesel exhaust particles have a negative effect on bees. Transporting bees is not only stressful for the bees, the experience was stressful for the truck driver and his wife. Asked if he would haul bees in the future the truck driver responded,
Well,” he said, “my wife’s looking at me right now, so I’ll say no.