Why do trucks keep spilling swarms of honeybees onto US highways?

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Truck hauling honeybees rolls over on Oklahoma interstate.

PAULS VALLEY, Okla. – A truck hauling honeybees overturned on a busy Oklahoma interstate, sending a swarm of insects onto the highway that was visible a half-mile away. Surprisingly, bee-related accidents aren’t uncommon on US highways, as trucks regularly transport hives of bees across the country for use by commercial farmers to pollinate their crops.

Many farmers who harvest crops such as almonds, apples, sunflowers, and grapes have come to depend on renting bees from commercial beekeepers because wind and other physical processes are often ineffective at pollinating the crops. While there were only 387 beekeeping establishments in the US in 2012, commercial beekeeping is a multi-million dollar business, the US Department of Agriculture noted in a 2014 report. Despite several reports of bee-related accidents in the past few years, honeybees are often preferred by beekeepers because they are easier to transport in a densely-packed colony than other potential pollinating creatures, such as bats, wasps, or butterflies. Beekeepers take particular precautions in transporting the bees, loading them onto trucks at night or before sunrise when they are in their hives and relatively inactive. During Tuesday’s accident, the inherent risks became particularly apparent, as angry swarms of insects mobbed state highway patrolman Carl Zink, as he responded to a call about an overturned truck on Interstate 35 near Paul’s Valley, Okla., at about 1 p.m., NBC News reported.

The loss of hundreds of thousands of bees in a single crash frequently ends up being yet another blow to the commercial bee industry, which has suffered extensive losses in recent years due to colony collapse. Without pollination by commercial honeybees the United States could effectively lose one-third of all its crops, including broccoli, blueberries, cherries, apples, melons, and lettuce.

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