Delaware police have cited the driver of a tractor trailer that overturned on a highway ramp, releasing millions of swarming bees near Newark.
The ramp to Interstate 95 reopened Wednesday morning, more than 12 hours after the rig carrying an estimated 16 million to 20 million honeybees in 460 boxes from Florida to Maine crashed. Police cited the driver, 55-year-old Adolfo Guerra of Miami, for unsafe shifting of load or cargo.
Police say Guerra and his two passengers were taken to Christiana Hospital with minor injuries from the crash and 50 to 100 stings each. There were reports of passers-by being stung.
State police spokesman Sgt. Paul Shavack says bee handlers worked with firefighters to spray water to disperse the bees as authorities used a honeybee swarm removal plan for the first time. In order to remove the truck from the I-95 on ramp in a timely fashion, they opted to disperse the bees rather than trying to gather them up.
Nearly an hour after the truck failed to negotiate the I-95 on-ramp curve, Shavack said bee swarms were so massive, "we can't even get close to the truck right now."
The odd cargo spill prompted state police to call in experts.
"We contacted beekeepers to assist," Shavack said, adding that three were advising on the scene.
Instead of trying to round up the bees, he said, they suggested dispersing swarms with water.
So firefighters from the Aetna Hose Hook & Ladder Company of Newark, coordinating with state troopers, began "hosing down the bees," Shavack said.
This wasn't New Jersey's first brush with escaped bees. Earlier this month, another truckload of bees was disabled on Route 287 in Bernards, N.J. The truck was carrying thousands of bees, which managed to escape into the area from the truck and are on the loose, according to Officer Raymond Gizienski on the scene, reported NJ.com.
Many parts of the US have experienced a sharp decline in bee colonies which are critical to pollinating fruit trees and other crops. As The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this month, scientists may be closing in on the cause of honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder: "The exact mechanism behind these collapses remains dauntingly unclear, but they have been linked with pathogen infestation, malnutrition, and pesticide exposure. This week's report strongly indicates that two neonicotinoid insecticides that are widely used on crops can decimate honeybee colonies' winter survival rates, whether or not mites or parasites are present."
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