Beekeepers are “devastated” after nearly five million of the insects died after they were left on hot tarmac.
The winged creatures were awaiting shipment in Atlanta, Georgia, when the crates carrying them were made to wait on the tarmac, and perished as a result.
Sarah McElrea, who runs Sarah’s Alaska Honey, said she was waiting at Anchorage Airport in Alaska for the shipment of the equivalent of £800 of bees but was dismayed to receive the news.
She told KTOO : “I really panicked when they found they had moved them outside because the pheromones that those honeybees emit are attractive to other honeybees that are native to the area.”
It was around 26C in Atlanta on Wednesday when it happened.
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Volunteers from Georgia Beekeepers Association rushed to the airport but were unable to save the insects.
Gina Galucci, of the association, said: “This is a disaster.
“So while we did mobilize very, very quickly, we did that because we know they’re going to die. And so the person who bought these bees is out a whole lot of money. So we’re going to try to help support with some donations toward that.”
It is believed some bees had escaped from their crates which was why it was decided to move the boxes outside at the airport.
Delta Airlines, responsible for the journey, called the incident an “unfortunate situation”.
A spokesperson for the company said: “We have been in contact with the customer directly to apologise for the unfortunate situation.”
There are now thought to be around 80 million bees worldwide, but their population is declining due to habitat loss, pollution and the use of pesticides.