As you probably heard, last Friday morning a semitruck overturned, spilling approximately 22 million bees onto I-5. The bees swarmed. Hiveless. Potentially queenless. Confused.
Photos of the scene depicted beekeepers haunting the dark hour in full beekeeping regalia, attempting to salvage what hives they could. Reports from KOMO News described firefighters spraying foam on broken boxes and reporters swatting away their apian attackers.
KIRO TV reported that the driver emerged from the wreckage unscathed. He’s fine.
But the bees.
Look at these intrepid beekeepers:
“The only way to capture the bees would be to lure them with a queen,” Frank Neal, owner of Tarboo Valley Bees, told me when I called him. Neal claims to have “been beeing” for 40 years. Rescuers would have to right the boxes, re-queen the hive, and hope for the best.
“If the queen was killed in the wreck,” Neal said, “then the bees won’t do anything but fly around.”
One of the worker bees will start laying eggs, but they’ll be drone eggs, males who are unable to reproduce. If they have no queen, they have no hive, no home.
“None of the hives were recovered,” said a representative from Belleville Honey Beekeeping Supply, the company who suffered the loss of the nearly 450 hives on I-5, when I called. “We have about 7,500 hives in house, so it is a pinch. But we’ll get through it. We’re farmers.”
The loss of last week's bees will have no impact on the PNW’s food crop pollination industry as a whole. Nor will the spill affect anyone except for Belleville Honey Beekeeping Supply, the few responders who suffered stings, and the people stuck in traffic due to the accident.
But the bees? All the bees will die.