Pigeon Mountain Trading Company is a locally-owned beekeeping and apiary store located in LaFayette, GA. Every year, they sell thousands of packages of bees. Quite a few of those are picked up at the store, but the majority of the bees are shipped to the buyers. This year alone over 42 million bees will be sold. "Because of the stellar work of the United States Post Office, more than 99% of our bees arrive at their destination in wonderful shape," officials said.
Transporting bees to every state in the country takes lots of planning and preparation.
PMTC Staff Member Lori Jackson prepares each package of bees prior to delivery to the Post Office. Special labels are applied to each box indicating that “live bees” are enclosed. All the paper work and shipping labels are filled out and applied, and the bees are ready to go.
Larissa DeBerry, LaFayette’s Post Master, oversees the bee shipments. She first alerts the Chattanooga Distribution Center that a pick up of live bees is needed. Then she and her staff collect up to twenty wired containers in which the bees will travel. When the bees arrive from Pigeon Mountain Trading Company®, DeBerry and her staff scan each package of bees into their tracking system. The bees are then placed in the wired containers which will be their home until they arrive at their final destination.
"Unloading thousands of packages of bees is a daunting task, but the LaFayette Post Office has it down to an art. Because overheating is a danger to the bees, the postal employees are careful in how they stack the bees. Good ventilation is key to their long journey," officials said.
Wayne Wilson, USPS Maintenance Clerk, has been helping Pigeon Mountain unload bees for two years now. “Some people are scared of bee stings,” Mr. Wilson says. “But as long as you don’t swat at them they won’t sting you.
"Not swatting is hard. Even though there are millions of bees in boxes, there are about 50 flying around outside the packages. These bees didn’t escape from the package, they just attached to the outside of the package at the bee yard."
As Bobby Walker, PMTC Bee Specialist, said, “Oh the hitch hikers...they are just along for the ride.”
Once all of the bees are loaded into the Post Office containers, they will wait for the transport truck to arrive. This is the only part of the trip that they will be sitting outside in the elements. From here on out, they will either be in a truck, or inside a distribution center.
“It does get sunny out here as the morning progresses,” said Mr. Wilson. “But I will come out here throughout the morning and move the containers so the bees will stay in the shade. It’s this kind of dedication that keeps the bees healthy.
"As all of the bees are left to wait for their next step of the journey, you can hear the buzz in the air. There’s just nothing quite like the sound of millions of honeybees – and today it’s the sound of success, thanks in large part to the United States Post Office.
"Honeybees are essential to the world’s agricultural crops. They pollinate many of our plants, and without them, our food supply would dramatically decrease. It has been widely reported that honeybees around the world are disappearing for unknown reasons, commonly referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder. Pesticides, electromagnetic radiation, parasites, and global warming are just some of the suspected causes of colony collapse. As the honeybees face rising challenges, Pigeon Mountain Trading Company and the United States Post Office are working together to help grow the honeybee population."
“Selling package bees is just one way we can help ensure the honeybee population continues to thrive,” said Steve McCloud, owner of PMTC. “Over the past three years, we’ve sold over 21 tons of bees. Because of the 99% success rate that the USPS has in delivering bees, we feel confident that bees ordered from PMTC will arrive to their final destination in good condition.
“Many people think of bee keeping as just a hobby, but the more people we can get involved, the better off our planet will be,” Mr. McCloud says. “Because we sell everything a bee keeper needs, we can offer support to brand new bee keepers, as well as those with years of experience."
"Like many businesses today, all of the products -- even the live bees -- are available online. This internet presence allows Pigeon Mountain Trading Company to support bee keepers throughout the country. The bricks and mortar store, located in LaFayette, Georgia, offers all of the products you can find online. One of the apiaries, where the bees are grown, is located on the sides of Pigeon Mountain," officials said.
“I’ve been keeping bees since I was a kid helping my Grandfather,” said Mr. McCloud. “There’s just nothing more rewarding than watching a hive grow. Except eating the honey,” he adds.