Pollination Plans Overturned

bees

Truck Transporting Bees Overturns
Image: @evanbush

Springtime the trees and flowers are blooming. Plants produce flowers to attract pollinators. At the high densities that many crops are planted, the ability of native pollinators to fully pollinate the crop is overwhelmed and the crop yield is limited by percent of flowers pollinated. All the flowers on many crops bloom at once, so there is a boom in the food available for bees and a large bust when flowering season is over. Bottom line: The number of bees needed to pollinate a crop cannot be sustained after the crop stops blooming. For this reason, growers of high value crops such as almonds and blueberries, contract with beekeepers to bring hives containing millions of bees into their orchards. The beehives are loaded on flatbed trailers and hauled from site to site. Beekeepers often drive after dark when the bees are mostly inside their hive, are not as active, and fewer are lost.

The Seattle Times informs us that a trailer with about 14 million bees overturned on Interstate 5, disrupting traffic. The bees, worth almost $100,000 dollars were destined to pollinate blueberries in Washington State. Those plans were overturned when the vehicle overturned leaving motorists and safety personnel to clear the wreckage. Beekeepers were called to collect and salvage bees but not until after firefighters had sprayed the bees with foam killing millions. Similar accidents happen once or twice a year, but many locations do not have protocols in place for best practices. Meanwhile a blueberry farm is Washington is probably scrambling to find more bees to complete their crop.

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 by jjneal, Environment, Health, Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Pollination Plans Overturned

  1. kencFoCo says:

    “The Seattle Times informs us that a trailer with about 14 million bees overturned on Interstate 5, disrupting traffic. The bees, worth almost $100,000 dollars were destined to pollinate blueberries in Washington State.”

    This is scary. I think the average citizen doesn’t understand the important role pollination plays in the ecosystem and can’t appreciate the magnitude of the consequences of bees dying off en masse. Thanks for the post, Dr. Neal. Hopefully with continued discussion awareness will spread to the right ears.

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