Beekeepers who were waiting for the shipment to arrive said that the loss was “devastating”, reported KTOO.
Sarah McElrea, who runs Sarah’s Alaska Honey, said she was waiting at Anchorage airport for a shipment of 800 pounds of bees.
“We had a load that was going to Fairbanks, and then we had somebody else that was going to distribute from Wasilla to Talkeetna,” she was quoted as saying.
“And then we were going to do Anchorage and the Valley. And then our second one would’ve come in the following day, and we would’ve taken that one back down to the Peninsula to fulfill the rest of our orders.”
She said that she was informed that the flight that was supposed to bring in the shipment was changed to another Delta airline flight.
The airline rerouted them to Atlanta where a direct flight was due to take the shipments to Anchorage.
Ms McElrea was informed by the airline the day after the shipment was due to arrive that some bees had escaped from their crates, so the airline had put them outside.
“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,” she said.
She said that the airline refused to put the shipment on the plane.
She then posted on Facebook to a page that is based in Georgia and connected with Atlanta beekeeper Edward Morgan, who went to the airport to take a look at the bees.
Mr Morgan found that most of the bees were already dead from the heat.
Volunteers from Georgia Beekeepers Association also went to the airport.
“This is a disaster,” said Gina Galucci of the Association.
“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.”
In an email to KTOO, Delta Airlines spokesperson Catherine Salm said: “We have been in contact with the customer directly to apologize for the unfortunate situation.”