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Fewer than 1,000 bees lost out of millions on truck that crashed in Bozeman

Posted at 9:09 PM, Jun 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 23:09:54-04

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

Amazingly, only about a pound of those bees was lost.

You can still see quite a bit of the aftermath of what happened at the intersection of Gooch Hill Road and Durston Road.

If you were to look closely at the ground, you can see hundreds of bees, many dead, some others alive.

Crews say the bees were an issue on their own, on top of a language barrier between the two men inside the truck.

Still, the beekeeper called to the scene says it is incredible this ended well.

“It was a great, great ending to what could’ve been just a disaster,” says 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 last night.

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

Steve Thorson, who is also an experienced beekeeper, was called in to help.

“When I first got there, there was talk about bringing the fire department in and foaming them and I tried to talk them out of that and said let’s try to save them if we can,” Thorson says. “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 says Mother Nature worked in their favor.

“It was a cool day,” Thorson says. “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 says if you do the math, that’s over 130 million bees altogether.

“About four pounds would be about 12,000,” Thorson says. “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 Steve 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 says. “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, they shouldn’t have been driving there in the first place.

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

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin agrees this could have been avoided.

“It’s speed,” Gootkin says. “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 says.

A few stings aside, he adds this could’ve ended a lot worse.

“We could’ve ended up killing millions and millions of bees yesterday and didn’t have to,” Thorson says.

Thorson adds the cargo was worth more than $100,000 and no one around here was in any danger during all of this.

Despite what happened, the bees are back on their way to North Dakota.

“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 says. “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.”

Story by Cody Boyer, MTN News