When 8 million to 10 million bees, give or take a million, lose their lives, it is a huge loss.
This truck incident is considered sensational news in many ways, but those familiar with the plight of bees and their endless struggles for survival every single day can only weep at the thought of so many millions of bees being exterminated for “safety reasons.”
Bees are our most vital pollinators. They provide three-quarters of the fresh food we eat, and without them humanity would slowly perish. In return we have created a toxic world where they no longer thrive, and even struggle to survive. Monocultures, disappearing habitat, climate change, deadly pesticides, parasites, and predators like Asian giant hornets.
Take the almond business in California, which produces about 80% of the world’s almonds, and is the world’s largest producer. Every year, almond growers rent around 1.5 million hives, or colonies, of honeybees to pollinate their almond flowers and it costs them about $300 million. The bees are trucked in from all over the USA. That’s how we have almond milk, almond butter, almond chocolate, almond nuts, and so much more almond-centric food.
It’s very likely the bees that perished and fled in this disaster were heading to the almond orchards.
This truck crash caused quite a buzz. Anyone near this downtown San Antonio, Texas incident last Sunday morning would have seen a surreal nightmare. An 18-wheeler truck carrying millions of bees flipped over on an interstate highway due to speed, bad weather and a lack of knowledge of the area. The situation was beyond the control of authorities.
This 1:45-minute news footage was taken by KSAT 12 News:
Once the 18-wheeler driver lost control and flipped the truck over, swarms of bees escaped and mayhem ensued. The truck overturned while navigating the notorious “Fine Silver Curve” where there have been many truck crashes, at the interchange connecting Interstates 10 and 35 above West Elmira Street. The southbound lanes of I-10, which runs from Florida to California, were closed for hours. Authorities called beekeepers from around the area to help contain the out-of-control swarms, including Carlos Espinoza, owner of Vespid Pest Control.
The truck is supposedly owned by a bee-removal business, which usually rescues and saves bees, but we have not been able to confirm this. KSAT12 reported that the semi-truck was transporting at least 400 hives and each hive contained 20,000 to 25,000 bees. This adds up to 8 million to 10 million bees worth a reported $200,000.00.
Many bees escaped into the air and covered the truck and nearby cars. The fire department and the police were immediately called to the location. A stretch of the road was shut down and everyone in the area was told to stay in their vehicles or dwellings until the area was cleared.
It reportedly took 14 to 16 units of the San Antonio Fire Department (SAFD) five hours to clean up the hives, which had spilled across the highway and the service streets below. The fire officials could not reach the driver due to the volume of bees. They were afraid of people getting stung. A spokesperson for SAFD said the decision was made to utilize their foam systems to neutralize the bees. They sprayed the hives that remained in the truck with foam, instantly killing all the bees inside the vehicle. They said it was done for “safety reasons.”
The cost of losing millions of bees is a loss for humanity and cannot be measured in money.
Here is another 1:45-minute video by KSAT 12 pointing out how important bees are to humanity and interviewing Rick Fink, the local bee association president:
Alamo Area Beekeepers Association president Rick Fink told KSAT 12 that the hives were probably on their way to Southern California so the bees could pollinate almond orchards at this time of year. An estimated 80% of all commercial hives in the US head to the almond orchard pollination frenzy for a 6 to 8-week time frame every year. He called the incident unfortunate and mourns the loss of the insects but did not blame the fire department for killing the bees. He said he was saddened from the standpoint of the loss of so many bees, but he understood the urgency of the situation as well.
Bees never want to sting humans because they know that when they sting, they almost always die. They usually only sting when they are afraid that their hive or queen bee is under threat. It is easy to see why the swarms of bees in such a situation are called "angry" because they are disoriented, afraid and in defense mode.
As this sad story shows, no humans were seriously harmed although there may have been a few bee stings. No medical transport or care was required, and there were no reports of any human injuries in the aftermath. The truck driver was safe and did not need to go to hospital. Even though there was no loss to humans, the bees that didn’t escape were exterminated by the spray, so were unable to be retrieved by the professional bee removal service that was on location.
An estimated property loss of $90,000 has been mentioned but is unconfirmed and considering how many bees fled and died in the disaster this seems unlikely to be accurate.
Maybe it is time we stop seeing bees as expendable insects and calculating their value in just dollars and cents. Maybe it's time to start seeing them as a vital key to our survival as a species.