Escaped bees temporarily shut down Utah highway

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2011 12:59 PM

By James Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The Interstate 15 highway in southern Utah has been reopened and millions of bees that closed the road have been accounted for, officials said on Monday.

"The driver lost control, hit the concrete barrier and rolled over. Of course we then had bees everywhere," said Corporal Todd Johnson with the Utah Highway Patrol.

Traffic along the interstate was shut down for several hours Sunday evening and Monday morning after a flatbed truck heading for California carrying hundreds of beehives overturned near a construction zone.

Officials say there was a net over the beehives but bees still managed to escape following the mishap.

"Nearly every hobbyist beekeeper that I knew in Washington County was there. The beekeepers responded," said beekeeper Melvin J. Taylor of Santa Clara, Utah.

Taylor and other local beekeepers worked through the night to gather the bees.

"We stacked the equipment back together, put them back on trucks and trailers and whatever we could find to move them out of there ... Then we tried to move them as far out of the metropolitan area as we could. Because when those bees come alive today they are going to be mad that their house is all (broken) apart," Taylor told Reuters.

He said bees not gathered and removed likely perished in the accident and cleanup.

"There were about 450 colonies on the load and probably about 45,000 bees to the colony," said Richard Adee with Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, South Dakota.

He said the bees were headed to Bakersfield, California for almond pollination next spring.

The Highway Patrol's Johnson said the truck driver and two law enforcement officers responding to the accident were stung by the bees but none of the injuries were life-threatening.

The beehives had been removed to local farms and would be returned to the Adee Honey Farms later, Johnson said.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)