About 5 million honeybees on their way to Alaska last weekend were knocked off the road when Delta Air Lines directed them through Atlanta, where most of the bees died after lying for hours in crates on the ground in hot weather.
The bees were the first of two shipments ordered by Alaska beekeeper Sarah McElrea from a distributor in California. The bees were to be used to pollinate apple orchards and nurseries in Alaska, where they are not native.
But the bees were bumped from their original route to Anchorage, Alaska, and instead put on a plane to Atlanta, where they were to be transferred to an Anchorage-bound plane, according to published reports.
McElrea said she was concerned when the 800-pound shipment did not arrive in Atlanta in time to complete the connecting flight. The next day, she said, Delta told her some bees had escaped, so airline workers put the boxes that kept the bees outside a Delta cargo hold.
In a panic, McElrea reached a beekeeper in Atlanta, who hurried to the airport and discovered that many of the bees had died of heat and starvation, according to The New York Times.
Delta called it an “unfortunate situation.”[ads1];
In an email, Delta spokeswoman Catherine Morrow told the Associated Press on Friday that the airline “was made aware of the shipping situation … and quickly engaged the relevant internal teams to assess the situation. We have taken immediate action to implement new measures. to ensure that incidents of this nature do not occur in the future. “
Morrow said Delta apologized to McElrea. The airline refused to make anyone available for an interview.
Atlanta beekeeper Edward Morgan called more than a dozen people to go to the airport and try to save bees that were still alive.
“It’s devastating to see so many dead,” Georgia beekeeper Julia Mahood told Atlanta broadcaster WABE. “Only clumps of dead bees that had no chance because they were left outside without 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 honey bees on the Delta from Sacramento, California, to Anchorage via Seattle many times. The airline told her that last weekend’s shipment did not fit on the plane, so they were diverted through Atlanta.
McElrea said her California supplier would replace the shipment, which was worth around $ 48,000. She said she hopes Delta provides some help, although she acknowledged that shipping live animals poses a risk.