Responding to Accidents involving
Honey Bees in Prince Edward Island
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Honey bees are an important part of the process of growing agricultural crops in Prince Edward Island, particularly blueberries. Although PEI has approximately 7,000 colonies which reside here year-round, there are a growing number of colonies which are imported from Ontario to pollinate the blueberry crop. In 2016, it is estimated that approximately 5,000 colonies will be imported into the province beginning late May through to the end of June. This represents approximately 9 tractor trailer loads of bees which enter the province through the Confederation Bridge (Borden-Carleton), usually at night. Local beekeepers will also be moving bees around after dark during this time.
Bee trucks carry two types of loads:
- Larger tractor trailer trucks will have hives full of bees which are being moved into PEI.
- Smaller trucks will have a number of hives which will move from holding yards to blueberry fields.
By understanding the nature and characteristics of honey bees, first responders can effectively respond to the accident, minimizing any further damage to the hives or bees while maintaining public safety.
**This protocol is not applicable to wild bees or wasps**
Honey bee behaviour is quite predictable even when they have been involved in an accident. Having an understanding of their general behaviour will minimize any adverse reactions by the bees to first responder activities.
- General Bee behaviour
- The natural tendency for the bees is to return to the hive. The presence of the queen and the smell of the hive all work together to bring them back.
- Even when hives are damaged or destroyed in an accident, the bees will generally want to remain in the area due to the smell of the hive or to protect the queen.
- Bees generally won’t sting unless they become agitated or put into a defensive/protective state.
- At night, bees are attracted to bright lights (like the ones used to light up accident sites)
- Key Actions to minimize conflict with/avoid agitating Bees
- Move slowly in and around hives and clouds of bees.
- Don’t swat at or swipe away bees.
- Any quick or jerky movements will generate an aggressive response.
- Bee Stings
- The main hazard with bees is the risk of being stung. With some people, there is a danger of potential allergic reactions when they have been stung. In an accident scenario, there could be thousands of bees released from the hives. In most cases they will try to remain near the accident site, thus increasing the risk of someone being stung multiple times.
- Victim and Responder Protection
Set an initial safety distance for bystanders or unprotected responders of 100 metres from the accident site/hives. This can be moved closer if the bees are clustered closer to the actual accident/damaged hives or there is little damage to hives.
- Maximize coverage of exposed skin to minimize any chance of being stung.
- Check for adverse reaction to stings/being stung (medic alert, signs of reaction, etc).
- An EpiPen may be required to deal with cases of anaphylactic shock (individual should self-inject or this should be done under medical supervision)
- Antihistamine pills will help reduce minor allergic reactions to being stung. (individual should self-administer or this should be done under medical supervision)
- Make clothing/Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) bee tight by closing off all openings and covering exposed skin (face, neck, sleeves, pants, hands, etc)
- Heavy clothing is not a necessity for protection; a standard pair of work coveralls provides sufficient protection. Lighter colors are best.
- Access to a bee veil will provide protection for the head and neck while allowing free and easy breathing. Each bee truck will have at least one veil on board, such as the one pictured below:
- Dealing with the bees at the accident site:
Decide if bees are to be saved or killed:
If bees are to be saved . . .
If the accident area can be temporarily isolated, beekeepers may be used to save bees and reload the truck. If possible, ask the driver which company is importing the bees. Contact information for individuals who have experience handling bees is listed at the back of this report. These contacts may be available to help gather the bees.
- A light misting with clean water will calm the bees down and suppress their movement. They will want to return to the hive.
- Intermittent misting will provide the same effect and reduce deaths among the bees, minimizing economic damage to the operator.
If bees are to be destroyed . . .
- If necessary, a film-forming foam used to extinguish gasoline and oil fires will kill bees. This foam or liquid detergents act as a wetting agent when added to water. When the mixture is sprayed onto bees, the water clogs the breathing tubes of the bees, suffocating them within one minute. Use a 1 to 3 percent mixture of foam or detergent in water.
- Contact Information
- Owner of truck / hives
The driver should be able to provide contact information for the owner/company that manages the hives. They will want to come to the site and start recovery of hives and bees that can be saved. Braggs and Wymans are the two importing companies who can handle the bees:
- Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture & Fisheries
- Chris Jordan, Provincial Apiarist – Cell: (902) 314-0816
- Bragg Lumber Company (Braggs)
- Roger Cotton – Cell: (902) 969-9208
- Jack Hamilton – Cell: (902) 844-2040
- Jasper Wyman Canada (Wymans)
- Peter Dillon – Cell: (902) 394-1589
- Paul Hunter – Cell: (902) 213-3417
- Prince Edward Island Beekeepers’ Association
- John Burhoe, President – Home Phone: (902) 962-3834
Revised: May 10, 2016