Millions of bees spill onto I-5 after semi crash

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LYNNWOOD, Wash. —

A semi-truck carrying a load a honey bees overturned on northbound Interstate 5 Friday, scattering boxes containing  nearly 14 million live bees across the highway.

Quick Facts:

  • Semi crashed on NB I-5 at I-405 in Lynnwood area Friday
  • Truckload contains millions of bees
  • Numerous boxes, each containing about 5,000 bees, crushed
  • Beekeepers using smoke to calm bees and get them reloaded 
  • Fire department used foam to kill bees as they became agitated

The HOV and left lane remain blocked at milepost 182 in the Lynnwood area near Alderwood Mall Friday afternoon after the 3:30 a.m. crash.

The Washington State Patrol said the semi was getting onto northbound I-5 from northbound Interstate 405 when it tipped over. The driver told troopers a blown tire caused the crash. But according to WSP, speed, fatigue and being overloaded are also possible factors. The driver was not hurt.

KIRO 7 News video showed dozens of boxes of live bees scattered across the road. Beekeepers from the company who owns the bees, Belleville Bees in Burlingon, responded and used smoke to calm the bees and them get them back into boxes and loaded onto trucks.

See photos of the chaotic scene here.

Numerous boxes of bees were crushed in the crash. Each box contained about 5,000 bees. The Washington State Patrol said the load contained a total of about 13.7 million bees.

Crews raced to get as many bees as possible contained by daybreak, when temperatures warm and the bees become more active and agitated. At first, the bees were largely staying in their boxes because they were producing honey and protecting the queen, but members of the KIRO 7 News crew were later stung numerous times.  See reporter Jeff Dubois' battle of the bees here.

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Many boxes of bees remained on the road after sunrise, and the agitated bees began to swarm. At 6 a.m., at the request of Belleville Bees, the fire department began putting a thick layer of fire suppression foam on the boxes of bees, killing them. The company came up with the idea because it was the quickest option to handle the difficult situation.

The spill was a huge loss for Belleville Bees, which trucks the bees around to pollinate crops.

"They were coming off the apple orchards after pollinating up there," said beekeeper  Christian Englund.

Construction equipment was brought in to scoop up the remaining boxes of dead bees. It's a loss of as much as $90,000.

"It's a setback for the farmers, too," said Englund. "They've got to get these bees on their crops so that pollination happens."

Belleville says people in the immediate area near Alderwood Mall,may notice a high number of bees for the next few days.