More than 13 million honeybees spill on I-5 in Lynnwood

LYNNWOOD — An overturned semitruck on I-5 Friday morning released more than 13 million honeybees, which stung firefighters, state troopers and others trying to clean up the mess.

Bees coated patrol cars, ambulances and other vehicles that happened by. Traffic backed up for miles.

Washington State Patrol Sgt. Keith Leary was stung three times and had one bee fly into his mouth.

“It looked like a gold, grayish-brown fuzzy cloud,” Leary said of the swarming bees. “When you are looking into the sun, it is like, ‘Wow, that is something you would see on Animal Planet TV,’ only it would be someone with a good lens photographing it from far away.”

An Idaho truck driver was hauling the 448 hives from Sunnyside in Eastern Washington to a blueberry farm in Lynden when he merged from I-405 onto northbound I-5 around 3:30 a.m. That’s when the truck tipped onto its side and dumped its load in the HOV lane and median.

The driver, 36, wasn’t hurt.

The bees weren’t so fortunate.

“They are pretty much a total loss,” Leary said.

Troopers, firefighters and the Washington Department of Transportation dealt with the traffic and safety issues. They consulted with Belleville Honey and Beekeeping Supply of Burlington, which owns the bees, Leary said.

The bees were fairly subdued until the sun rose and the weather warmed, Leary said.

The decision was made to spray foam on the boxes that housed the hives. Meanwhile, people worked to clear the highway of the swarms.

“I think pretty much everybody has been stung,” Snohomish County Fire District 1 spokeswoman Leslie Hynes said. Protective gear couldn’t totally cover the firefighters.

It made for an unusual sight for people passing by.

“It created an eye-candy slowdown,” Leary said. Many took video and photographs, creating a potentially hazardous situation.

Leary grew concerned because people in the cars would roll down their windows to photograph. That put them at risk of inviting large numbers of bees inside.

Eventually, a front-loader was brought in to scoop up the wreckage. As many as six dump truck loads were hauled away. Thousands of bees took refuge in the shrubs alongside the freeway.

Troopers are investigating the cause of the crash.

The cleanup took several hours.

Lynnwood firefighters got their share of stings as well.

“We don’t see this every day in Lynnwood,” city spokeswoman Julie Moore said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446,

Talk to us

More in Local News

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Inslee: The president made me speed up teacher vaccinations

Here’s what’s happening on Day 54 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee speaks with special ed Pre-K teacher Michelle Ling in her classroom at Phantom Lake Elementary School in Bellevue, Wash. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

Frances McDormand in "Nomadland." (Searchlight Pictures) 20210304
Masked in a nearly empty theater, a movie outing at last

Just four of us were in the audience for a matinee showing of “Nomadland” at Stanwood Cinemas.

James Myles walks his 5-month-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ellie around Martha Lake Park on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Lynnwood, Washington. Myles entered Ellie into a contest called Americas Favorite Pet, where she's currently in 2nd place for her group. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Vote for Ellie: Fluffy corgi from Lynnwood vying for top dog

“Her Fluffiness” is competing to be America’s Favorite Pet. The contest raised $300,000 for PAWS last year.

A view of the courtyard leading to the main entrance of the new Stanwood High building on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Stanwood, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

A Marysville Pilchuck football player sports a spear on his helmet as the Tomahawks took on Snohomish in the Wesco 3A Championship Friday evening at Quil Ceda Stadium on November 1, 2019. School district leaders may soon need to consider dropping Marysville Pilchuck High School’s mascot, the Tomahawks. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Should Marysville Pilchuck High drop the name ‘Tomahawks’?

A state bill would ban Native American mascots and symbols from schools — unless there is tribal permission.

Snohomish County Council delays education spending vote

The council is now slated to decide next week on the measure, which targets a pre-K learning gap.

The Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is prepared for injection Friday at Angel of the Winds Arena. (Snohomish Health District) 20210305
New vaccination site opens at Angel of the Winds Arena

Meanwhile, supply is still an issue now that teachers and child care workers are seeking shots.

Rendering of Islamic Center of Mukilteo
Groundbreaking for the Mukilteo’s first mosque is Saturday

The proposed Islamic Center of Mukilteo was the target of an anti-mosque mailer campaign in 2016.

Most Read