Millions of bees were left to cook to death in a crate
More than five million bees are dying in the scorching sun after a Delta Airlines shipment bound for Alaska was hijacked and left on Atlanta’s scorching tarmac.
Weighing around 800 pounds, the 200 crates of bees were the first of two shipments sent from Sacramento, California to Anchorage, Alaska.
There, more than 300 beekeepers awaited their pollination services in the apple orchards.
Previous shipments had arrived in Alaska, on Delta Airlines flights that went from Sacramento to Seattle, then to Anchorage, but that trip was diverted.
Atlanta beekeeper Edward Morgan works to open a crate of bees as Ellen Ausley shines a flashlight into one of the two bee-loading boxes
Edward Morgan was one of the Atlanta beekeepers who rushed to save millions of dying bees at Atlanta airport in Georgia
A beekeeper examines a bundle of mostly dead bees at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport on Sunday evening
According to a New York Times report, there was no space on the flight to Seattle, which caused it to be rerouted to Delta’s hub in Atlanta last Friday, where the bees would 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 83 degrees Fahrenheit heat, as some of them escaped from the crate.
After sending a local expert to examine the bees, it was discovered that they had been placed upside down, with no access to food, and millions had died. The rest were donated, meaning none could be delivered to Alaska.
The bees were the first of two shipments ordered by Alaska beekeeper Sarah McElrea from a distributor in California.
Millions of bees died on a tarmac in sunny Georgia after a shipment from California to Alaska was diverted to Georgia
crate of starved bees after a cargo box was left in the scorching sun at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport
Beekeepers are seen checking to see if a queen in one of the bee packs has survived
McElrea said she was concerned when the 800-pound shipment didn’t arrive in Atlanta in time for the connecting flight. The next day, she said, Delta told her that bees had escaped, so airline employees placed the crates containing the bees outside of a Delta cargo hold.
Panicking, McElrea joined a beekeeper in Atlanta, who rushed to the airport and found that many bees had died from the heat and starvation.
Delta called it an “unfortunate situation.”
In an emailed statement, Delta spokeswoman Catherine Morrow said the airline “was made aware of the shipment situation…and promptly engaged the appropriate internal teams to assess the situation.” We took immediate action to implement further measures to prevent events of this nature from happening again in the future.
Many bees have been saved thanks to the quick response of the bee community. Pictured above is an Atlanta beekeeper
Edward Morgan of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association talks about the state of bees
A group of beekeepers sort bees left on the tarmac at Atlanta airport
Morrow said Delta apologized to McElrea. The airline declined to make anyone available for an interview.
McElrea said that in the future, she would take a fleet of vehicles to transport the bees directly to Seattle from Sacramento, where they could fly to Alaska.
The bees were to be used to pollinate apple orchards and nurseries in Alaska, where they are not native.
An Atlanta beekeeper, Edward Morgan, called more than a dozen people to come to the airport and try to save the still-living bees.
“It’s devastating to see so many deaths,” Georgia beekeeper Julia Mahood told Atlanta broadcaster WABE. “Just clumps of dead bees that didn’t stand a chance because they were left outside with no food and basically got lost in Delta’s machinery.”
McElrea, who runs a business called Sarah’s Alaska Honey, said she had received previous shipments of bees on Delta several times from Sacramento, Calif., to Anchorage via Seattle.
The airline told him last weekend’s shipment didn’t fit on the plane, so they were redirected to Atlanta.
McElrea said his supplier in California would replace the shipment, which was worth about $48,000.
She said she hoped Delta would provide help, although she acknowledged that shipping live animals comes with risks.
A beekeeper works to unload a crate of bees at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport
A flashlight shines as a beekeeper examines the condition of stranded bees. The vast majority of bees died in the heat, but several thousand were rescued
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