ARBUCKLE, Calif. (KTXL) — The millions of bees that died while being shipped to their new home in Alaska were raised in Arbuckle. 

“They’re just very fragile creatures and most people don’t understand the fragility of them,” said Sarah McElrea, of Sarah’s Alaska Honey.

For the past 15 years, McElrea has been supplying honey bees across the state of Alaska.

But in late April, her shipment of bees never made it to their destination in Anchorage.

“He called me and said, ‘They’re just dying. It’s mid-80s and they’re in these metal carts on the tarmac. And they’re just not going to make it,’” McElrea recalled.

McElrea said about 5 million bees were supposed to fly from Sacramento to Seattle to Anchorage. But she said there wasn’t room on the Delta Airlines flight. They had been diverted to Atlanta and placed into coolers until the next available flight.

“At some point in that time frame, before the next day’s flight, someone had moved them out of the cooler,” McElrea explained. “They said they thought maybe some of them were escaping.”

That’s when Gina Gallucci of the Georgia Beekeepers Association stepped in to try and save any bees that were still alive.

“There were about 20 beekeepers and about 10 minutes later, there were 30 beekeepers,” Gallucci said. “One of the colonies that I took has already died.”

That ended up costing McElrea a lot of money.

“That shipment was pre-sold for $48,000,” McElrea said.

Still needing to get honey bees to her customers, McElrea made the trek all the way from Anchorage to Arbuckle to put in an emergency request to her supplier.

“All we’re focused on right now is getting these bees safely to Seattle, on the airplane, and get them passed out to our customers,” McElrea said.

A spokesperson for Delta Airlines wouldn’t do an interview with FOX40 but said they are doing everything they can to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future. 

“Delta was made aware of the shipment situation that occurred on DL2390 from Sacramento to Atlanta and quickly engaged the appropriate internal teams to assess the situation. We have taken immediate action to implement new measures to ensure events of this nature do not occur in the future. We have been in contact with the customer directly to apologize for the unfortunate situation and are working with them to come to a resolution.” 

Delta Airlines

They also said they’re in contact with McElrea to work on a resolution.

“I really don’t think it was anything maliciously done. I just feel like whoever made that decision did not grasp the gravity of the decision that they were making,” McElrea said.

Even though she’s never lost a shipment in all her years in business, she’s hoping this can help raise awareness of the importance of honey bees.

McElrea has ordered an additional 5 million bees from her supplier in Arbuckle.

She plans on driving them to Seattle tomorrow, placing them on a plane to Anchorage, and flying back to Alaska with them.