More than five million honey bees were left to die in the scorching sun, after a Delta Airlines cargo bound for Alaska was diverted and left on a hot runway in Atlanta.
The 200 boxes of honeybees weigh about 800 pounds, and they were the first of two shipments sent from Sacramento, California, to Anchorage, Alaska.
There, more than 300 beekeepers were waiting for pollination services in the apple orchards.
Previous shipments had arrived in Alaska, on Delta flights that took off from Sacramento to Seattle, and then to Anchorage, but this flight was diverted.
Edward Morgan, an Atlanta beekeeper, works to open a box of bees as Eileen Osley shines a flashlight into one of two shipping crates of bees
Edward Morgan was an Atlanta beekeeper who scrambled to save the millions of dying bees at Atlanta Airport in Georgia.
A beekeeper checks a group of mostly dead bees at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport on Sunday evening
According to a report in the New York Times, there was no room on the flight to Seattle, causing it to be rerouted through the Delta Center in Atlanta last Friday, from where the bees will then travel to Anchorage the next day.
While the bees were initially placed in a cooler, they were later removed and left on the tarmac, in a temperature of 83 degrees Fahrenheit, due to which some of them escaped from the box.
After a local expert was sent to examine the bees, it was found that they had been put upside down, with no food available, and millions had died. The rest were delivered away, meaning none of them were delivered to Alaska.
The bees were the first of two shipments ordered by Alaskan beekeeper Sarah McElrea from a California distributor.
Millions of bees were left to die on the tarmac in the Georgia sun after a shipment from California to Alaska was diverted to Georgia.
A cage of bees that died of starvation after leaving a cargo box in the hot sun at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport
Beekeepers look to check to see if a queen in a bee population survived
McElrea said she was concerned when the 800-pound shipment did not reach Atlanta in time for the connecting flight. She said Delta told her the next day that some of the bees had escaped, so airline workers put the boxes carrying the bees outside of the Delta freight bay.
In a panic, McElrea arrived at the Atlanta beekeeper, who rushed to the airport and discovered that many of the bees had died from heat and starvation.
Delta described it as an “unfortunate situation”.
In an emailed statement, Delta spokeswoman Catherine Morrow said the airline “was informed of the status of the shipment… and quickly engaged the appropriate internal teams to assess the situation.” We have taken immediate action to implement new measures to ensure that events of this nature do not occur in the future.
Many bees were saved thanks to the rapid response of the bee community. Pictured above, a beekeeper in Atlanta
Edward Morgan of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association talks about the state of bees
A group of beekeepers screens bees left on the tarmac at Atlanta Airport
Moreau said Delta has apologized to McCleria. The airline refused to make anyone available for an interview.
McLeira said she will take a fleet of vehicles in the future to take the bees directly to Seattle from Sacramento, where they can travel to Alaska.
The bees were to be used to pollinate apple orchards and nurseries in Alaska, where they are not indigenous.
Edward Morgan, an Atlanta beekeeper, called more than a dozen people to go to the airport and try to rescue any bees still alive.
“It’s devastating to see so many deaths,” Julia Mahood, a beekeeper in Georgia, told a broadcaster in Atlanta. WABE. “Just clumps of dead bees that didn’t stand a chance because they were left outside without food and basically lost in the Delta machines.”
McElrea, who runs a company called Sarah’s Alaska Honey, said she has received previous shipments of Delta honeybees from Sacramento, California, to Anchorage via Seattle several times.
The airline told her that last weekend’s shipment was not suitable on board, so it was rerouted through Atlanta.
McElrea said its California supplier will replace the shipment, which was worth about $48,000.
She said she hoped Delta could provide some help, though she acknowledged that shipping live animals carries risks.
A beekeeper unloads a crate of bees at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta
A flashlight lights up while a beekeeper checks the condition of stranded bees. The vast majority of bees died in the heat, but several thousand were saved