Semi wreck spilling 14M honeybees draws Idaho firefighters

Responders had to spray the area with fire foam before they could access the accident scene; all were subjected to multiple bee stings


By Emma Breysse
The Idaho Falls Post Register

ISLAND PARK, Idaho — Witnesses of a Sunday evening semitruck accident in Island Park could appear to be recounting a biblical plague.

Observers described a strange black cloud and a roaring noise as the area was overwhelmed by a swarm of 14 million honeybees.

Emergency responders had to spray the area with fire foam before they could access the accident scene. All were subjected to multiple bee stings, according to the Fremont County Sheriff's Office.

Jessica Peterson of Island Park said she was cleaning a cabin near the wreck when she heard a semi sound its horn. Then, as she was driving home, she noticed the wreck and wondered why there appeared to be a black cloud hovering over it.

"At first I didn't know (the cloud) was bees," Peterson said. "Then it started moving and there were bees swarming my car."

The semi was transporting the bees from Bakersfield, Calif., to Minot, N.D., when the truck ran off the shoulder of U.S. Highway 20. Its cargo of more than 400 hive boxes tipped over and released the bees and spilled honey along the roadway. Honey covered the road well into Monday.

Responders came from the sheriff's office, the Island Park Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services.

Joe Romance, owner of Bakersfield-based United Honeybees, said the bees belonged to his company. The shipment was worth at least $130,000, he said.

"That's the first time we've had a load tip over since 1978 or so," Romance said. "It's out of the ordinary, that's for sure, but the people who cleaned it up did the right things."

The wreck impeded travel and caused concern that it would attract bears, Fremont County dispatch officer Kelly Larson said.

Most of the honey was cleaned up as of Monday afternoon, but there are still a "significant" number of bees in the area, according to the Fremont County Sheriff's office.

Copyright 2011 The Post Register
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