WHP and beekeepers rescue bees from truck crash along highway

We know we are a little behind on sharing this story and it’s not local, however, we think it’s worth a post. Earlier in November, a truck transporting numerous beehives to California for pollination services crashed east of Douglas on US-18/20.

Fort Collins, Colorado resident, lifelong firefighter, and beekeeper Ralph Kettle heard a few details about this crash through social media from fellow Colorado beekeeper Debbie Komperda who owns Happy Busy Bees, and decided to take the few hour drive to Wyoming.

“It was truly a leap of faith to drive up to the crash site because the information was pretty sketchy,” he shared with County 10. “As a firefighter, I knew that the first responders were not equipped or trained to deal with a load of bees on the side of the highway.”


The information Komperda received was through the “swarm hotline” from the Wyoming Highway Patrol who was trying to find neighboring beekeepers to help.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t a good system in place to call in the number of beekeepers that were needed,” Kettle said.

By the time he had heard about the wreck and made it to Wyoming, 24 hours had passed and clean-up had already started. Upon arriving, a beekeeper from Casper was doing his best to get hives put back together. He had “maybe 5 or 6 [hives],” according to Kettle.

Another plea for help was sent out to beekeepers to sort through and organize the bees they rescued. “I was blown away with the selfless response,” he said.


“I was able to piece together about 30 hives and of those, 20 bee colonies were viable. Only 10 colonies had queens so we combined the other 10 ‘queenless’ colonies with them. If I had to guess, we saved about 30 out of 400 hives.”

“I wish we could have saved more of these bees and had a better way of communication to get beekeepers there. I worry about the dwindling number of bees in the country and any time we can inform people of the critical need for bees in our agricultural food chain the better.”

Kettle has been a beekeeper for about four years, and considers himself a “hobby beekeeper.” That might change once he retires at the end of this year after 42 years of being a Fort Collins firefighter.


Thank you to Ralph, Wyoming Highway Patrol, all the other beekeepers, and now honorary beekeepers who helped save as many as you could.

The information we have been able to gather on the driver is that he sustained very minor injuries.


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