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PHOTOS: Beekeepers work to salvage some of 400 hives spilled in Wyoming crash

(Photo courtesy of Dan McConnel via Debbie Komperda)

CASPER, Wyo. — A flatbed truck hauling a load of beehives crashed on US 18/20 about three miles from I-25 near Orin Junction south of Douglas on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Lieutenant Randy Starkey said that the driver of the 40-foot long semi was transported to a hospital as a precautionary measure, but did not sustain any major injuries.

“He had some bee stings and some bumps and bruises but nothing life-threatening,” Starkey said on Friday.

The incident occurred at around 5 pm Wednesday. Starkey said the driver drove off the highway and the truck rolled onto its side, causing damage to some of the boxes containing bee hives and colonies.

(Photo courtesy of Dan McConnel via Debbie Komperda)

While Starkey didn’t know the exact number of beehives on the truck, bee keepers who later responded to the scene in attempts to salvage some of the colonies put the number at around 400 beehives.

Starkey said that highway patrol spent about three hours “looking for a large enough group of bee keepers that could come pick up that many bees and beehives because it was a large quantity.”

The highway patrol then turned the incident over to Great West Casualty Company, a commercial truck insurance company in charge of responding to the insurance claim stemming from the crash.

“Great West Casualty took over after they got there,” Starkey said, adding that he thought the company was going to continue looking for beekeepers to help with the salvage efforts.

A Great West Casualty representative told Oil City on Friday that he was unable to comment on the incident.

Debbie Komperda and her husband Joe operate “Happy Busy Bees” out of Parker, Colorado.

“We’re the Denver Broncos’ beekeepers,” Komperda said on Friday.

She and her husband were on a Zoom meeting call on Wednesday with the Colorado Swarm Hotline, which works to help find new homes for bees when that is needed.

(Photo courtesy of Dan McConnel via Debbie Komperda)

Joe Komperda received word of the crash during the Zoom meeting and passed the word on to other bee keepers on the call.

Dan McConnell with Love 4 Bees, LLC based in Thornton, Colorado then drove up to the crash scene along with a freelance beekeeper named Terry Dorsey.

When they arrived on scene, they worked to stack beehives along the fence line off of the highway.

“We didn’t have a way of transporting them,” McConnell said on Friday.

He added that some of the boxes had been hosed down by firefighters responding to the crash. The Douglas Volunteer Fire Department responded to the crash. Oil City attempted to reach out to the DVFD for further information about the incident on Friday, but did not receive an immediate response.

Starkey said on Friday that the fire department may have hosed down the scene after highway patrol had left, though he was not aware whether this had occurred. He said the plan was to allow beekeepers to salvage as many hives as possible and was under the impression that most had been salvaged.

“They had some beekeepers come up,” Starkey said. “I think they came out of Colorado. They gathered up most all the bees and most all the hives that were salvageable.”

“There were a bunch of hives that were not salvageable and I’m sure there are some bees that died too. Probably three-quarters of them were still good.”

McConnell said, however, that the majority of colonies did not survive.

“I’d say 90% of the hives are dead,” he said.

Ralph Kettle is a firefighter in Fort Collins and keeps bees as a hobby. He was on duty on Wednesday night so was not able to come to Wyoming on the night of the crash.

Kettle said he’d learned about the crash from social media posts sharing information that the Wyoming Highway Patrol was looking for beekeepers to help salvage some of the wreckage.

He drove up on Thursday and found that the “stuff that was salvaged was not even a drop in the bucket.” Kettle said that the work McConnell and Dorsey did to stack the beehives along the fences salvaged boxes with about 30 colonies of live bees.

(Photo courtesy of Dan McConnel via Debbie Komperda)

They had assembled these colonies from what could be salvaged from the overall wreckage.

Kettle said that he called the Wyoming Highway Patrol on Thursday before he headed up to Wyoming. When he asked if assistance was still needed to salvage the bees, “They said, ‘No, it has been taken care of.'”

But when Kettle arrived he said the scene still looked like a “gooey, sticky mess of a pile.” A bee keeper from Casper was also on scene when Kettle arrive.

“He was putting whatever hives he could onto his truck,” Kettle said. He added that another person on the scene had purchased a beekeeping suit and was going to try to salvage some hives.

“It was pretty overwhelming,” Kettle said, noting that he too observed that some of the hives appeared to have been soaked with water.

Kettle was able to transport the colonies which had been stacked along the fence line back to Fort Collins. When he arrived home, he put out a notice on social media asking other bee keepers to help him, since the number of colonies was too great for him to take care of personally.

He said about a dozen people showed up and helped him unload the colonies and locate which ones still had living queen bees. Kettle said that with the help, he has been able to locate winter homes for the colonies he was able to salvage.

“I think I’ve got these colonies spoken for,” Kettle said.

Both Kettle and Komperda expressed some frustration with how highway patrol had communicated about the incident.

“The wreck was taken care of but the clean-up hasn’t happened yet,” Kettle said. If the highway patrol had made it more clear that there was more that could be salvaged, he thinks more beekeepers would have responded.

“That would be awesome if we could save these bees,” he said.

Komperda agreed.

“We could have gotten a lot more help out there,” she said.

While it is understandable that some of the bees would have been killed in the incident or response to the incident, Komperda said that bee keepers could still salvage other material.

“Even if we don’t recover bees, we would recover frames of honey,” she said.

Komperda added that if some of the wreckage is transported to a landfill bees which are still alive could continue to live, though they would likely die at the landfill during the winter.

She said that if beekeepers were able to salvage more of the material and bees, there’s a good chance more could have found a home and survived because they will “freeze at the dump if they don’t get protected.”

NOTE: If others beekeepers or people with knowledge of the incident have further information, please consider reaching out to Oil City News with that information: news@oilcitywyo.com

This article originally appeared on Oil City News. Used with permission.