While an overturned truck releasing millions of bees on I-95 in Newark may sound like the start of a great horror movie, bee experts say the accident probably won’t increase the areas bee population.
The thought of swarms of bees targeting residents in Newark, or the nearby University of Delaware campus makes great fodder for nightmares, but there’s little evidence that the release of millions of bees in the area earlier this week will result in such a scenario.
On Tuesday night, a tractor trailer hauling 460 bee hives from Florida to Maine overturned on the on ramp from Rt. 896 to I-95 north. As many as 20 million bees that were on their way to pollinate crops escaped from their hives.
“They’re not going to make it”
While highway officials warned passing motorists to roll up their windows as they drove by to avoid the angry swarms, local bee experts say there won’t be any long term impact. While bee keepers who responded to the scene were able to recapture about half of the bees, the bees that escaped won’t last for long in the wild.
“The ones that were scattered, there’s just going to be a lot of dead bees,” said University of Delaware assistant professor Deborah Delaney. Delaney specializes in the study of bees and was one of the bee experts who responded to the scene of the accident to help capture the escaped bees.
Without a connection to a queen, the bees that escaped capture won’t be able to reproduce. “They have nothing to keep the colony going and to lay more daughters,” Delaney said. “They’re not going to make it.”
“It was traumatizing, honestly,” Delaney said after seeing so many angry and agitated bees. “
Shipping bees is common
While Tuesday’s accident was a rare occurrence that drew national media attention, bees are actually shipped around the country a lot more frequently than you might think. “They’re being shipped and trucked all over to pollinate different fruit crops and such,” Delaney said.
The loss of this shipment will have a big impact on the bee keeper who was shipping the bees and the farmer who was going to receive the bees. “For the beekeeper, what a huge loss, not only of his bees but that pollination contract, which probably [impacts] his economic livelihood.”
As of Thursday morning, DelDOT still had signs warning passing motors to keep their windows rolled up as they drove on I-95 and Rt. 896 near the accident scene to avoid possible bee swarms.