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Da Bees Knees …

March 17, 2008

The California Highway Patrol drafted in apiarists and Romanians this weekend after a truckload of beehives toppled on Highway 99, leaving 440 colonies strewn across the freeway.

The commuting workers, and their queens, were set loose when the truck flipped over on the on-ramp to the highway heading north, toppling the palletes carrying the hives. The bees were thought to be heading North to Washington State, after a stint working the almond Orchards of California’s central valley. 

According to local paper the Sacramento Bee, the California High Patrol drafted in Jesse Young, a 66-year-old former beekeeper, together with a “a couple of pretty strong boys who were beekeepers in Romania” to sort out the resulting apiarian pile-up.

Young told the paper the colonies would have to be re-sorted to make sure each had a queen, before they could head back up the free way. He predicted this would be done in the nearest prune or apple orchard. Those bees which did not survive the accident were simply swept up.

The paper said it had trouble getting more information about the pile-up, as the onsite CHP spokesman was attacked by a bee in his car.

The truckload of hives was apparently worth around $75,000. However, this figure belies the importance of the load as the US continues to grapple with the mysterious phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder, which has caused the loss of large numbers of bees in the US. While this may seem a small problem it actually presents a major issue, given that agriculture relies on bees to pollinate crops. Britain’s beekeepers are demanding the government pump £8m into researching the problem, while Häagen-Dazs is stumping up $250,000 for US academics to look into it. ®

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