SPECIAL REPORT: Truckers swarm for loads during bees&rsuqo; absence

| 9/12/2007

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

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.

In late June, 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.”

Richard Adee, head of the country’s largest beekeeping operation, Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, SD, 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’s company is getting ready to truck more than 80,000 colonies of bees out to California in about two weeks. He said the plan is that the last load of his company’s bees will arrive in Bakersfield, CA, by Thanksgiving.

OOIDA member Kenny Wyman of Summit, SD, will be among the hundreds of truckers hauling bees out to the West Coast in the next few weeks. Wyman said he looks forward to hauling loads of bees every year, which he has done the past three years.

“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.”

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 Adees’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.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer