What It’s Like To Transport 5 Million Bees Across The Country

PHOTOGRAPHS BY RYAN SHOROSKY

 

For the past few months, photographer Ryan Shorosky has been hauling millions of bees from California to Florida; something he never pictured for himself but, like his decision to become a long-haul trucker, just felt like the right thing to do. The ride, as he tells Atmos, is faster than we’d think—but rife with lessons on the natural world.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY RYAN SHOROSKY

Text Size

Three months after graduating art school, photographer Ryan Shorosky got his commercial drivers license and began a year on the road working as a long-haul truck driver. Long days (and nights) of isolation has led Shorosky to a clearer point of view—or what he’d call “a way to learn how to fail to succeed.” The result, if you’ve ever checked his Instagram, includes photographs of sunsets, open roads, mountains, and more. Think: images so sharp in their hues, so clear in their framing, and so vast in their depth that loneliness—at least for Shorosky—doesn’t seem so scary anymore.

 

But the role of beekeeper never crossed his mind until a few months ago. For the past few months, Shorosky has been hauling millions of bees from California to Florida; not for the sake of honey, but almonds. (The fruit—yes, fruit—depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time.) The ride, as he tells Atmos, allows for a lot less reflection on his usual, immediate surroundings of the natural world than it does the habits of the precious cargo itself.

Commercial pollination services maintain tens of thousands of hives that are available for rent, delivering them by truckload all over the country.

Atmos

What exactly are you up to hauling these bees around? And how did you get into beekeeping?

Ryan Shorosky

I got into hauling bees a few months ago, as I’m currently working and living full time as a long-haul trucker. I had the opportunity to do my first bee load and, as I’ve always had an interest and admiration for bees, I jumped on the opportunity. I picked the bees up in central California—they had finished a few months of pollinating almond farms there—and was returning them to their home farm outside of Jacksonville, Florida where they were to spend the next few months producing honey.

 

Bees are hauled all over the country for different kinds of pollination and are a necessity as they contribute to a third of our diet.

Atmos

What, if any, are your immediate observations and learnings from these experiences?

Ryan

I was immediately humbled to work around, and care for, so many bees. An average semi-truck hauls about 400-450 hives at a time, which translates to anywhere from five to seven million bees. And my first load was about two-thirds full of African honey bees, which are a lot more aggressive. It’s an incredibly grounding and privileged experience to care not only for so many living creatures at once but knowing that you can’t take their misunderstanding of you as a threat personally (and, in that process, beginning to learn how to really work with them).

On long hauls, bees have to be sprayed (to cool them down and prevent overheating) and fed sugar syrup, a substitute for honey.
Smoke calms bees down as they get agitated from shifting loads.

Atmos

Is there something we should know about bees that we might not already realize?

Ryan

Hauling bees requires a very go-go-go mentality. You pretty much drive from sun up to sun down and if you need to stop, then it’s for no more than 15-20 minutes since bees are most active during the day.

Atmos

What’s a common misconception about bees that has been dispelled throughout these experiences?

Ryan

I think a common misconception around hauling bees is that it’s destructive and harmful to the bees and their hives. While yes, it’s a guarantee that bees will die in transit, the bigger picture is that these hives are needed all over the country to provide pollination for many of the foods we eat. Without this service we’d be without a third of our diets so it’s an absolute necessity.

 

What strikes me most when working with bees is their unwavering commitment to their cause. They don’t stray from their mission and their mission is to provide for the greater good: their colony. Something I never knew until working directly with bees is that when the worker bees are born or young, they are actually taught how to do certain things by the older females. The bees are not born knowing exactly what to do and how—which just goes to show not only how precious even the smallest of things are but how much we have yet to learn about the importance of a species like the honey bee.

Africa,Asia,BiodiversityChampions,Cascade,Circularity,Cities,ClimateArt,ClimatePolitics,ClimateResiliency,Conversations,Culture,DeadWhiteMansClothes,EcoInnovation,Ecosystems,EthicalFashion,Europe,FlourishCollapse,FutureOfFood,GlobalFashion,HumanBody,IndigenousStories,Latitude,Neo-Natural,NewBiology,NorthAmerica,Oceania,Oceans,Perspectives,ResourceExtraction,SouthAmerica,SupplyChains,TheOverview,Travel,Watch,