Up to five million bees that were being shipped from California to Alaska have died after air shipment was delayed and the container they were being transported in was left outside in scorching heat.
Beekeeper Sarah McElrea had ordered the bees from a California distributor to pollinate apple orchards in Alaska because they are not native to the region.
McElrea has had bees shipped to Alaska in the past with no problems, but on this occasion the first of a two-leg trip from Sacramento to Anchorage Seattle was diverted to Atlanta because the 200-case shipment did not fit in the first plane.
Once the flight landed in Atlanta, there were no immediate options for getting the mass shipment of bees to Anchorage, so the container was stored in a Delta Air Lines cargo hangar for diversion options were developed.
Unfortunately, it appears that while they were in the temperature-controlled storage shed, some of the bees escaped, so Delta workers decided to move the cargo container containing 800 pounds of honey bees outside. outdoors so no one gets bitten.
During this time, it appears the container was not only knocked over, but the bees were left outside in 83 degree heat. Most of the five million bees, worth an estimated $48,000, perished.
A Delta spokesperson said the incident was “unfortunate” and as soon as the airline became aware of the situation it “promptly engaged the appropriate internal teams to assess the situation.”
“We have taken immediate action to implement further measures to prevent events of this nature from happening in the future,” the airline said in a statement.
McElrea contacted local Atlanta-area beekeepers to get to the airport, but they found “clumps of dead bees that didn’t stand a chance because they had been left outside with no food and are essentially lost in Delta’s machines”.
In the future, McElrea says she may resort to driving bee expeditions from Sacramento to Seattle to prevent a similar incident from happening.
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