- About 5 million bees on their way to Alaska were forced to stop in Atlanta, where most died, per APM.
- Sarah McElrea, who ordered the bees, was told by the carrier Delta that they had to sit on the asphalt.
- Delta apologized for the “unfortunate situation”.
Millions of bees on their way to Alaska died on a Delta Air Lines plane after the plane was left on the tarmac in Atlanta, Georgia, after a diversion.
Alaska Public Media (APM) reported on Wednesday that a Delta plane carrying a shipment of about 5 million bees en route to Anchorage, Alaska, was forced to divert to Atlanta. Most of the bees died in the city of Georgia.
The 200-box shipment, ordered by Sarah McElrea from Sarah’s Alaska Honey on behalf of 300 Alaska beekeepers, carried 800 pounds of bees and was worth an estimated $ 48,000.
The boxes were to travel from Sacramento, California, to Anchorage Airport via Seattle, Washington. But the bees did not get a seat on the plane to Seattle and were instead redirected through the Delta hub in Atlanta.
Delta told McElrea that the bees had to wait in a cooler last Saturday, but they were transferred to the asphalt the next day due to fears that the bees escaped. McElrea told APM that the temperature in Atlanta was 80 degrees Fahrenheit on the day they were left there.
“I was really panicked when they found out they had moved them outside because the pheromones that these honey bees send out are attractive to other honey bees that are native to the area,” she told APM. Because the bees were out, it made it harder to save them in the crates.
MacElrea told APM that she connected on Facebook to “a site based in Georgia.” She came through to Edward Morgan, a beekeeper in Georgia, Atlanta, who told Atlanta radio station WABE that he and more than 20 others from the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association hurried to the airport to try to save the bees.
“It’s devastating to see so many dead,” Julia Mahood, a beekeeper in Georgia, told 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.”
In an email, a Delta spokesman told Insider: “Delta was made aware of the shipping situation that occurred on the DL2390 from Sacramento to Atlanta and quickly engaged the relevant internal teams to assess the situation.
“We have taken immediate action to take new action to ensure that incidents of this nature do not occur in the future. We have been in direct contact with the customer to apologize for the unfortunate situation.”
McElrea did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment outside normal business hours.
McElrea told The New York Times in an interview that Alaska residents are increasingly dependent on bee imports to pollinate crops this fall and fall.
“People do not understand how dependent we as a species are on honeybees for pollination,” MacElrea told the New York Times. “And this is just a waste, an absolute tragedy.”