Only around 1,000 bees lost in Bozeman truck crash

Posted at 12:18 PM, Jun 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-12 14:18:21-04

BOZEMAN – A truckload of around 40,000 pounds of bees is back on the road after a semi hauling them crashed in Bozeman Monday.

Amazingly, only about a pound of bees was lost after the crash at the intersection of Gooch Hill Road and Durston Road.

A beekeeper called to the scene said it is incredible the crash ended well.

“It was a great, great ending to what could’ve been just a disaster,” said Steve Thorson, owner of Montana Honey Bee Company.

The first problem was easy to see: swarms of bees covered the double tractor-trailer on Durston Road Monday night.

“The occupants, the drivers of the truck, are very fortunate they walked away uninjured,” said Brian Nickolay, Hyalite Fire District assistant fire chief.

Thorson said when he first arrived on scene, crews were discussing bringing the fire department in and using foam.

“I tried to talk them out of that and said, ‘Let’s try to save them if we can,’” Thorson said. “The trucks are covered with a mesh net or a mesh tarp and so that kept most of them in and that was basically intact so that’s another thing that saved them.”

Thorson added Mother Nature worked in their favor.

“It was a cool day,” Thorson said. “The other big thing was when the truck was up-righted, it was almost dark and when it’s dark out, the bees are a lot more docile.”

Thorson said if you do the math, there were over 130 million bees altogether.

“About four pounds would be about 12,000,” Thorson said. “That’s a lot. I don’t think 1,000 bees were killed in the whole thing so that’s a pound or less than a pound.”

Apiarists like Thorson say losing only a single pound of bees out of 40,000 is pretty amazing.

“There’s 412 hives on that truck and I would be really surprised if more than two of them were damaged,” Thorson said. “Typically, when a semi of bees rolls over, you save very few. The big issue is if you don’t have a queen bee, then you don’t have a hive. You gotta have the queens and if the queens are separated or killed, then all you have is bees, you don’t really have a hive.”

And according to Thorson, the truck driver should not have driven that road in the first place.

“They had no business being on Durston and Gooch Hill,” Thorson said. “Evidently, they got mixed up with Google Maps and they should have been going down Huffine.”

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin agreed the crash could have been avoided.

“It’s speed,” Gootkin said. “You know, the whole idea is to drive safely, know what’s in front of you, and to be driving accordingly.”

“Just the fact that they are on their way to North Dakota right now basically unscathed is incredible,” Thorson said.

Thorson added the cargo was worth more than $100,000 and no one was in any danger during the incident.

“When something like that happens, if it ever happens again, is to not panic and don’t jump to any quick conclusions on what to do, like foaming them or spraying them or anything like that. Just get a hold of the people that know about bees,” Thorson said. “That was the other amazing thing is very few people got stung and all of the towing guys all suited up with bee suits and stuff and everybody did great.”

-Reported by Cody Boyer/MTN News