Beekeepers assist after boxes carrying 5 million bees fall from truck


The calls for help went out to dozens of beekeepers across Ontario early Wednesday morning.

Luc Peters had just gotten up and was feeding his pets. Mike Barber was helping his 8-year-old son fall back asleep. Terri Faloney was talking to her mother, who alerted her to the news.

Around 5:30 a.m., a pickup truck pulling crates containing roughly 5 million honey bees lost control on a road, causing the crates to fall and the bees to escape. Police officers responded by urgently calling beekeepers to control the situation and pleading with the public to stay away.

Beekeepers grabbed their protective suits and rushed to the scene, where police officers barely knew what to do. The apiarists gathered the bees back into the wooden crates, and by 11 a.m., they had things under control.

“It was a little chaotic,” Barber, a beekeeper from Guelph, Ontario, told The Washington Post.

The previous night, farmer and commercial beekeeper Tristan Jameson collected bees from one of his bee yards in Milton, Ontario, and loaded crates into a trailer connected to his Ford F-350. He was transferring them to another bee yard about 35 miles south in Grimsby.

Jameson was on Guelph Line, a road in Burlington, Ontario, when he said he saw something move in front of his truck. Jameson said he swerved to his right. To avoid falling into a ditch, Jameson said he made a sharp left turn, which caused about 16 of his 44 crates to fall, but he stayed on the road.

“My first thought was, ‘Wow, I survived,” Jameson, 23, said. “Then it was like, ‘Oh my goodness, all my bees.’”

After he stopped shaking, Jameson said he found construction cones on the side of the street to block off the trailer as he tried to signal drivers away from the area. He said he ran to a landscaping company across the street and asked an employee to call 911. Then he started gathering the bees into the crates.

At 7:14 a.m., the Halton Regional Police Service advised people to close their windows and avoid the area. Around the same time, officers found beekeepers online and called for help, while some beekeepers saw the news and volunteered.

Constable Ryan Anderson said this was the first time in his decade with the service that police had been called to control millions of bees. Officers briefly closed one side of the two-lane road where the incident occurred, Anderson said.

“We get wildlife calls, or we occasionally have to deal with a bear or deer, but never anything with bees,” Anderson said.

Peters, a beekeeper who lives in Hamilton, Ontario, figured something bad must have happened when police called him. Barber, 36, said he had missed about 10 calls from police officers when he checked his phone just after 7 a.m. Faloney’s mother, Brenda Carroll, saw footage of the incident on CHCH-TV and urged her daughter, who lives in Hamilton, to volunteer.

When they arrived, many of the bees were still erratically flying. Others were on the ground, on cars and on the scattered crates. Barber said it sounded like helicopters were circling the scene due to the buzzing.

Beekeepers said it smelled like honey, beeswax and bananas (an odor bees release when they sting). Apiarists also released bee smokers, which help calm panicked bees.

Beekeepers said walking among millions of bees is normal in their job.

“I love being surrounded by bees,” said Faloney, 32.

Jameson said he was stung more than 60 times and received treatment from paramedics, but he didn’t need further medical attention. He helped other beekeepers organize the crates and search for queen bees. When queen bees returned to their hives in the crates, many bees followed them.

Many police officers stayed in their vehicles, Barber said. Faloney said she gave her beekeeper’s suit to a reporter but was still only stung once. So many beekeepers showed up that some were later turned away.

“There was no lack of help from the beekeeping community,” said Peters, 36.

Crates were loaded onto the truck, which Jameson kept there so rogue bees could find their hives. But hundreds of bees died in the crash and from stinging, Jameson said.

“If we took all the boxes then, we would have left a very large amount of bees, pretty much without a home,” Jameson said.

Jameson was given two tickets, including one for driving with an insecure load, Anderson said. Police are still encouraging people to avoid the area.

After corralling most of the bees, Jameson received a ride home to Grimsby from a colleague. He plans to return to the truck Thursday night to drive the bees to Grimsby.

Faloney and Peters, who are friends, went out for breakfast. Faloney said she was disappointed the restaurant didn’t serve local beekeeper’s honey to add to her “much-needed” coffee. Despite standing among millions of bees minutes earlier, she was craving a spoonful.


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