Bees + Road Trip = Adventure

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.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, Environment, News, Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Bees + Road Trip = Adventure

  1. Unathi says:

    Hi I’m an emerging commercial beekeeper with 30 beehive,who lives inMatatiele,Eastern Cape,South Africa.I want to transport my hives from another tomwn to where I live.What kind of transport should I use?

    • jjneal says:

      A pickup truck would work for a short distance making multiple trips. For a longer distance, you would want to use a trailer that could hold all 30 hives. I suggest you contact a local beekeeper association for specific advice on bee transport in your area.

      The way many beekeepers transport bees in the US is to place screen in the hive opening at night when most bees are in the hive. The screen keeps the bees in the hive while allowing ventilation. The hives can then be loaded onto a pickup or flat bed trailer for transport. The hives should be secured so they don’t tip or bounce during transport.
      Good luck

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