As many as five million honeybees that were being shipped from California to Alaska died after the air shipment was delayed and the container they were being transported in was left outside in searing heat.
Beekeeper Sarah McElrea had ordered the honeybees from a Californian distributor to pollinate apple orchards in Alaska because they are not native to the region.
McElrea had honeybees shipped to Alaska in the past without any issues but on this occasion, the first of a two-leg journey from Sacramento to Anchorage Seattle was diverted to Atlanta because the shipment of 200 crates didn’t fit on the first plane.
Once the flight had touched down in Atlanta, there were no more immediate options to get the massive shipment of honeybees to Anchorage so the container was placed into storage in a Delta Air Lines cargo shed while rerouting options were worked out.
Unfortunately, it seems that while in the temperature-controlled storage shed, some of the bees escaped so Delta workers decided to move the cargo container containing 800 pounds of honey bees outside so that no one got stung.
During this period, it appears that the container was not only moved upside down, but that the bees were left out in 83-degree heat. Most of the five million honeybees, worth an estimated $48,000, perished.
A spokesperson for Delta said the incident was “unfortunate” and that as soon as the airline became aware of the situation it “quickly engaged the appropriate internal teams to assess the situation.”
“We have taken immediate action to implement new measures to ensure events of this nature do not occur in the future,” the airline said in a statement.
McElrea got in contact with local beekeepers in the Atlanta area to go to the airport but they found “clumps of dead bees that had no chance because they were left outside with no food and basically got lost in Delta´s machinery.”
In the future, McElrea says she may resort to driving shipments of honeybees from Sacramento to Seattle to avoid a similar incident occuring.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.