ST. GEORGE — Emergency response crews were faced with an interesting challenge Sunday.
Surprisingly, an overturned semi-truck on I-15 wasn't their biggest problem. They knew how to deal with that. It was the estimated 25 million bees the semi was hauling that created issues.
Police, firefighters, paramedics and others battled being stung by bees as they worked to help the semi driver, who suffered minor injuries.
As for rounding up the bees, about 20 local bee keepers were called in to assist.
Washington County bee inspector Casey Lofthouse said the key was getting the overturned boxes that housed each colony set back up and placed on pallets that could be transferred to another vehicle.
There were two boxes per colony and four colonies per pallet, Lofthouse said. Each colony contained an average of 80,000 bees. Part of the challenge, he said, was making sure the correct two boxes were matched together. If a box that contained one-half of a colony was placed with a box that contained a different colony, the bees would attack each other, he said.
"You can't just grab any two boxes," he said. "When you throw those two colonies together they just kill each other."
Lofthouse, who was stung about two dozen times himself Sunday, said it was easy to round the bees up once it got dark. The bees naturally began to cluster up and went back into their colony box.
"A lot of bees will go back in," he said. "After dark they don't fly, they just crawl around."
An estimated two-thirds of the 25 million bees were recovered. Lofthouse said the remaining bees that were not captured or killed likely would be around the area where the accident occurred for about a week.
The person who owned the bees said he was very grateful for all the work of the local bee keepers and would be in town in about a week to reclaim his bees, Lofthouse said. Until then, the bees will be staying with the local keepers.