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Biotech Science

Why So Many Crashes of Bee-Carrying Trucks? 255

Hugh Pickens writes "Interstate 15 in southern Utah has been reopened and officials say 25 million bees that closed the road have been accounted for after a flatbed truck heading for California carrying 460 beehives overturned near a construction zone. The bees were on their way to Bakersfield, California for almond pollination next spring. 'The driver lost control, hit the concrete barrier and rolled over,' says Corporal Todd Johnson with the Utah Highway Patrol. 'Of course we then had bees everywhere.' But a similar incident happened in July, when 14 million bees, as well as a river of honey, flowed out of a wrecked semi in Idaho; and 17 million bees escaped a fatal truck crash in Minnesota last year. Why so many highway accidents involving bees? The uptick results from more and more honey bee colonies being transported around the country via highways in recent years. Local bee populations are rapidly dying off from a little-understood disease called 'colony collapse disorder': 'The number of managed honey bee colonies [in the U.S.] has dropped from 5 million in the 1940s to only 2.5 million today,' says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, some honey bee scientists suspect that the rise of migratory beekeeping may be contributing to the species' decline as transporting hives from farm to farm spreads pathogens to local bee populations."
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Why So Many Crashes of Bee-Carrying Trucks?

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  • by martijnd ( 148684 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @05:13AM (#37829014)

    Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action.

    • The important questions to ask are: What are the expected rates of accidents involving lorries? What has been the change in the number of bee lorrie miles travelled or bee lorrie hours on highways? and does this apparent cluster violate expectations based on those numbers?

      I would first guess that this is explained better by cognitive biases relating to our casual misunderstanding of statistics than by statistics on a handful of cases. This time last year, everyone thought there was a pattern when several ma

    • Maybe a supervillain is attempting to corner the world's honey supply.

    • by thomst ( 1640045 )

      Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action.

      Er .. not a Goldfingerism. The quote is from Marc-Ange Draco, a Mafia don, and the father of Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo, Bond's love interest (and, briefly, spouse) in the novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

      "No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die." - Auric Goldfinger.

    • Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action

      I guess nobody saw M. Night Shyamalan's excellent documentary, The Happening.

      Which is quite possible, considering the box office receipts.

    • Sure. If you count the bees as the enemy. I often wondered if any of these truck drivers got spooked by a bee sting (or several) enough to take their attention off the road.

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @05:14AM (#37829016) Journal
    is that bee keepers continue to transport them all over. It seems like the smart thing is to require that at the least they be in only one state. IOW, no transportation over state lines.
    • Bees fly across state lines, so that probably wouldn't help.

      It's *still* not known *For sure* what *causes* colony collapse disorder, there's only the condition they always find when it happens. Is it really just one or two factors, or a combination of everything?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pinfall ( 2430412 )
      The problem is persistent pesticides not directly transportation per se. Colony collapse was happening in other countries and populations recovered after Bayer's gaucho was pulled from pollinating farms.
      • by Tsingi ( 870990 )

        The problem is persistent pesticides not directly transportation per se. Colony collapse was happening in other countries and populations recovered after Bayer's gaucho was pulled from pollinating farms.

        I made a presentation to the Pesticide Advisory Committee of Prince Edward Island regarding the use of imidacloprid on potato fields here and it gathered a lot of media coverage. It was the first story on our local news on TV, and both radio stations mentioned it throughout the day in their newscasts. I had produced a graphStan.gif (7651 bytes) which showed use and accumulation on PEI and held it up under my head throughout the whole news interview after my presentation, but it was NOT shown on TV because

    • My guess is that the bees are needed in different states during the season as different plants need to be pollinated. When a certain crop or fruit tree blooms will will depend a lot on location.

    • There's at least one movie about it: []

      More bee transport is leading to more bee crashes, but the root cause of increased transport (including flying bees in from Australia to the USA) is colony collapse disorder. And, if the conclusions drawn in the movie are correct, CCD stems from the use of persistent pesticides in the growing of corn, soy, cotton, wheat, etc. They go on to describe bans on these pesticides in Europe and how the

    • Keeping migratory hives from, well, migrating, would incur a huge financial hit on beekeepers. Additionally, if they aren't migrating, they aren't polinating. Given the current batch of CCD, it's not like in-state hives (natural or man-owned) could compensate, so you'd also see a significant impact on cash crops.

      What's your suggestion for them?

      (And, yes, I've kept bees.)

      • The solution is for the farmers to keep their own bees, along with enough plant diversity to keep them happy year-round.

        Trucking bees cross-country from monoculture to monoculture is a fundamentally stupid idea.

    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )

      It seems like the smart thing is to require that at the least they be in only one state.

      Huh? Seriously, I don't get it. Why would that be the smart?

      • by mortonda ( 5175 )

        It seems like the smart thing is to require that at the least they be in only one state.

        Huh? Seriously, I don't get it. Why would that be the smart?

        It is a standard procedure to limit wildlife disease. Deer, fish...

  • the start of a Hitchcock movie.

  • by JustOK ( 667959 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @05:20AM (#37829038) Journal

    They accounted for ALL 25 000 000 bees? Were any hurt in the accident? Did any die?
    A suspiciously round number. too.

  • 25 million bees that closed the road have been accounted for

    So ... who counted them all?

    • by Kaenneth ( 82978 )


      Definently 25,000,000 bees, Definently... time for Wapner.

    • 25 million bees that closed the road have been accounted for

      So ... who counted them all?

      You don't need to, they're all given little ear tags at birth which can be scanned by a barcode reader.

  • by SeaFox ( 739806 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @06:05AM (#37829198)

    Obviously the killer bees are lying in wait, to ambush the semis as they come around the corner on the highway in an effort to free their cousins.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Colony collapse disorder is caused by the pesticides we put on our grain seed. Scientists figured out how to make the whole plant resistant to pests. Our EPA / FDA tested the stuff with adult bees and approved it. They didn't check to see what happens to the bee larvae - the new bees (as opposed to nubies) have no sense of direction and can't survive outside the colony for more than 24 hours.

    France knows this. France has banned the pesticides. The USA needs more proof.

  • It seems that the skill of Semi truck drivers have went from skilled professionals to "i can drive a truck" idiots. you used to feel somewhat safe around semi trucks, now mostly idiots drive them that in order to drive 0.5mph faster than the one in front of them they cut hard into passing traffic, many times causing accidents so they can drive 0.5mph faster than the other truck that they were getting a drafting effect from and saving fuel.

    in the past 4 years we have had 5 semis drop off of an overpass be

    • by HBI ( 604924 )

      With self-insured big trucking outfits having a one strike rule for their drivers, does this surprise you? A single ticket or accident ends your career with any big outfit. At that point, you can't get hired in the industry unless you can pony up the cash for your own private tractor. Anecdotal story: I once saved a driver's job by getting a ticket issued for backing up into a telephone pole overturned in NYC traffic court. If the ticket had stood, he'd have been unemployed the next day.

      Never mind the

    • I think if you're driving a lorry with a semi, you're not really concentrating on the road.
  • by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @07:26AM (#37829498) Homepage
    How many bee transport journeys were made? What percentage of those journeys resulted in accidents? How does that compare as a percentage to the transportation of other goods?

    It's not a possible question to answer without a lot more data. It's not even possible to determine the question has a valid premise as yet.

    • But there have been at least 3 accidents in two years!

      Oh, wait, that doesn't prove anything. Maybe it's just that news reporters find bee spills more interesting than a load of lumber spilled?

    • The answer is simple if you've ever tried to drive a truck full of bees without crashing. Two million bees all shout "shotgun!" at once and you got to sit there with them buzzing at you to switch the radio to a country station.

  • What a nightmare....a bunch of Terrorists hijack 4 or 5 mega trucks full of bees into Times square and then crash the trucks into the median releasing them. Now THAT would be horrific.

  • One of the more interesting theories is that many GMO crops now produce a pesticide to kill off the wrong bugs. The idea is two fold:
    • - The pesticide builds up in adults and the hive and cause infertility
    • - The honey becomes unappetizing and the bees stave
  • AFAICT migratory beekeeping is unheard of in other parts of the world. Why does the US do it? Does it have any benefit over stationary bees?
    • by Skinkie ( 815924 )
      It is not unheard. It is even very common in China. The benefit for bee's: there is none. The benefit for the farmer: he gets his fruit, or more general in the USA: almond tree's pollinated. The benefit for the commercial beekeeper: more money with fewer bee's. The benefit for the bees? None, they even feed bee's antibiotics. And bee's like any animal needs a diversity of pollen, not only pollen from the same flowers. Because proteins are different in different flowers. (Don't fall in the trap that bee's on
  • I'm not saying it's the cause of CCD, but trucking bees across the continent and working them year round doesn't mimic their natural cycles, not to mention the heavy dependence on fossil fuels for all the transportation. Just my gut feeling, but I get the sense we're pushing things a bit too far here.
  • Hauling bees (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @08:36AM (#37829952)
    My family farms cranberries, so I get to haul bees all the time. This doesn't have anything to do with missing honey bees. There are plenty of them where we're at. This is more like "Fertilizing" the bees. Farmers want more than natural usually provides. If they miss a season, it's no big deal. This is just the latest fad in "How to get more yield" In fact, most people near me are using bumble bees, which to my knowledge aren't having the problems honey bees are. Farmers share them around here. One sends his bees over, while you let him borrow a tractor, etc...

    also, more accidents hauling bees? Yea... try hauling a couple hundred hives on a flatbed and it becomes obvious why there are so many crashes. They get into the cab... no mater how tight you've got the windows shut. We've taken to wearing bee suits while we drive. Then you have all the other people on the road that seem to drive differently, especially when they are on motorcycles or convertibles, when you pull up next to them with a couple million bees in tow.
  • There's no plausible hypotheses let alone an answer in the summary. So we're asked to provide them?! A bunch of unwashed geeks that avoid fresh air like the plague? Gimme a break.
  • The mysterious force that causes truckloads of bees to overturn also causes wild car chases to overturn a fruit vendors stall or strike an old flatbed truck carrying four dozen chicken coops.

  • It's no wonder there are crashes...

    Q.E.D: []

    The transport of bees however is completely understandable. It's the only way to keep churning out more copies of "Sock Full of Bees".

    (Audio NSFW, Audio/Video NSFE [not safe for empathy]) []

  • "Beeeeees! Bees in the car! Bees everywhere! God, they're huge and stinging like crazy! They're ripping my flesh off! Run away, your firearms are useless against them!"
  • Two a year is a lot? Too small a sample to show a pattern.
  • The bees are acting as a hive mind.

  • They're the problem and we all know it. They just drive around listening to raps and shooting all the jobs.

  • What are they plasmid-phobes or something?

  • Because I'm covered in bees!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @10:02AM (#37830908)

    Having married into a beekeeping family, I couldn't help but notice that the writer of this article seems fairly uninformed.

    For one thing, TFA mentions the rise in the trucking of bees and attributes it without explanation to CCD. Bees are subject to a number of well understood diseases and parasites that beekeepers spend lots of time and money to protect their bees from. CCD is the blanket term for all the less well-understood diseases, parasites and harmful environmental factors. It strikes me as odd to assert that beekeepers would move their businesses around the country in an effort to combat an unknown threat, especially since for all they know, the new location (or the act of moving itself) could contribute to CCD.

    AFAIK, there are two primary reasons for migratory beekeeping:
    1) To protect bees from *known* diseases and parasites. Wintering bees involves letting the hives power down for a few months. Unfortunately, during this time of lowered activity, they have an increased susceptibility to problems like wax moths and other parasites. Moving the bees in the winter to places where pollination needs to occur means getting the bees to a warmer and healthier environment and let's them end the winter stronger.
    2) Financial incentive. Trucking your bees across the country means moving your entire business at least twice a year and is a large personal and financial burden. However, because demand for pollination services is so high, doing so actually ends up being profitable, and businesses that do not engage in this practice end up being less viable and more vulnerable to the random setbacks that plague any agricultural endeavor.

    In other words, migratory beekeeping is a matter of survival rather than preference. Moving your bees is a pain in the butt and often involves being away from your family for months at a time, but it is deemed necessary to stay competitive with both domestic and international (e.g. Argentina & China) producers.

    Another troubling phrase in the article is "industrialized hives." I'm not really sure what this might refer to, since economies of scale don't apply as much to beekeeping as they do pig farming or corn growing. You can't just create a mega-honey factory with millions of hives. The bees have to be distributed across a large area. Bees live as hives of a size governed by biology, and because bees have a well-understood range, only so many hives can be put in any one place. I am sure that very large honey outfits do exist, but in my experience, very small businesses (less than 10 people) is actually the norm, and these small businesses are as affected by the various diseases and parasites as anybody else.

    Any finally, I just have to say something about this assertion, "Transporting the hives from farm to farm then spreads the pathogens to local bee populations." This may be true, but these pathogens spread even before migratory beekeeping became common. In fact, they spread in spite of a universal desire to keep them from spreading and international and interstate restrictions on moving bees. The irony is that the spread of these pathogens was one of the factors that made migratory beekeeping necessary. On the other hand, maybe keeping all hives local would slow the spread of new diseases and disease variants. That would be a good thing, I suppose.

  • If accident rates for bee trucks are higher than rates in the general trucking industry (which I don't think is established in TFA), it could be because a small number of bees get into the cab during loading, and then emerge to startle the driver en route. Insect distractions are a significant cause of non-commercial auto accidents.

  • "Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear." They went off to occupy wall street.
  • 500,000 [] trucking accidents occur each year. Two crashes involving bee trucks, and this "Live science" rag tries to claim there's some sort of pattern here?

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"