Temperamental cargo
Truckers play a critical role in transporting bee colonies to crops in preparation for the pollination season

By Clarissa Kell-Holland
Staff Writer


It’s a critical time for bee haulers, as more than 1 million honeybee colonies from all over the country are being put on flatbed trailers and trucked out to the West Coast in preparation for next spring’s crucial pollination season.

OOIDA member Kenny Wyman of Summit, SD, will be among the hundreds of truckers hauling bees to the West Coast. Wyman said he looks forward to hauling loads of bees every year, which he has done for Adee Honey Farms for the past three years.

Even though he’s been stung more times than he cares to admit, Kenny said he looks forward to hauling the temperamental cargo in preparation for pollination season every year.

“It’s like every other load you haul – you just need to be smart about it,” he said. “When you vouch for a load like this, you need to make sure you are going to be able to do it. I’m just lucky I’m not allergic to bees and I’m not afraid of getting stung.”

Kenny said bees aren’t the easiest cargo he’s hauled, and his trips are never dull. His wife, Nancy, said her husband treats every load he hauls “as if it were his own product being shipped.”

“It takes a lot of planning when you haul bees,” Kenny said. “You can’t just stop when you feel like it, especially when it’s hot, because those bees need air flow or they get pretty upset.”

Wyman, who has been trucking for more than 25 years and an owner-operator for the past five years, said he first got involved in bee hauling through friends who started hauling bees.

For the past three years, Wyman has hauled loads of bees for Richard Adee, who is the head of the nation’s largest beekeeping operation, Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, SD.

Adee’s company is in the process of shipping more than 80,000 colonies of bees – approximately 175 truck loads – out to California. He said the plan is that the last load of bees will arrive in Bakersfield, CA, by Thanksgiving.

Once the bees arrive in California, Adee said, they will be fed carbohydrates and protein to help them prepare for the busy pollination season ahead, which starts in February.

Adee has received numerous phone calls from truckers lining up to haul loads of his bees.

“It’s really a good load for the truckers – we try to make it as easy for them as possible,” he said. “We load the pallets on the trailers and put the net over the pallets for them, then we unload the pallets for them when they arrive with their loads.”

Truckers who haul bees for Adee Honey Farms are given detailed instructions on when to travel, when to stop and what to do if there is a problem, according to Adee.

“We try to make sure everything is planned out so our truckers aren’t crossing the desert during the day,” he said.

“We also instruct them that if the truck has problems and they have to stop, they know what to do – we have the truckers simulate weather conditions that keep the bees happy – the bees know not to venture out when it’s windy and they know not to go out when it’s raining, so we try to make sure they have air moving or they have water on them to keep them cool.”

Where have all the bees gone?

In recent years, millions of honeybees have disappeared because of what researchers refer to as colony collapse disorder, or CCD, which has decimated hives everywhere. This dramatic decrease in honeybees could prove devastating for growers whose crops are pollinated by honeybees. Almonds, apples, blueberries and numerous other fruits and vegetables depend on honeybees to pollinate.

Some scientists are blaming the disappearance of the honeybees on a parasitic varroa mite, which both transmits harmful viruses to bees and suppresses their immune systems.

In late June, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns issued the following statement:

“If left unchecked, CCD has the potential to cause a $15 billion direct loss of crop and $75 billion in indirect losses.”

Adee agrees a good pollination season is needed in light of alarming reports of honeybee colony collapses.

“This is a critical time for our industry,” Adee said. “This decline in the bee population has hurt a lot of companies who had to replace lost bees, but have managed to hang on so far. If we have another bad year, they aren’t going to have the money to come out of this one.”

Adee knows bees

Adee, whose family has been in the bee business for more than 50 years, said his company has been “somewhat” affected by the honeybee colony collapse, but overall, they have been lucky, so far.

“We have not had near the devastation that some have faced,” he said.

The family business includes Adee’s two sons, Bret and Kelvin, and daughter, Marla. All are involved in the family’s beekeeping operation, which also has more than 100 employees.

Adee’s dad and four uncles started raising bees back during the Depression years, and he attributes his uncle, Elsworth, with starting the family’s bee business by buying six hives at a farm sale to make a little extra money.

“I was lucky growing up – I really had a distinct advantage – it was like a beekeeping seminar at our family reunions,” he said. “Everyone gathered around and shared their experiences.” LL