By Abby Bustin and Caroline Kucera, CNN
Edward Morgan Jr. was part of a massive rescue mission this week — one involving thousands of bees.
Morgan, who has been in the beekeeping practice for about four years, received an urgent call from a stranger on Sunday: an Alaskan beekeeper said her 200 packages of bees were missing.
“It was shocking,” Morgan told CNN. “The lady calls me out of the blue and she’s like, ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me, but I need your help.'”
She said the packages were supposed to be shipped directly to her from California to Anchorage, according to a Facebook post from the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association. (Morgan is a board member with the association.)
Instead, the packages — which Morgan estimated contained nearly 10,000 bees each — ended up on a tarmac in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, more than 3,000 miles from where they were supposed to be.
The Alaskan beekeeper told Morgan she had been informed the bees couldn’t make the Delta Air Lines flight because some of them had gotten out of their packages.
While waiting in the Atlanta heat on Sunday, the “vast majority” of the bees died, according to the association’s Facebook post. Metro Atlanta weather reached a high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday.
A Delta Air Lines spokesperson told CNN the company has taken “immediate action to implement new measures” to ensure nothing similar happens again. “We have been in contact with the customer directly to apologize for this unfortunate situation,” the spokesperson added.
As soon as he got the fellow beekeeper’s call, Morgan loaded up his truck and headed to the scene. “I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
Morgan found many bees dead, and others starving. And, he learned the flight the remaining bees were scheduled for would depart Monday afternoon.
“There was no way they were going to make it because it was still hot in Atlanta, and then you gotta go through another day of that,” Morgan said.
So, he and the Alaskan beekeeper agreed the flight was no longer a viable option and began selling the bees in the Atlanta area. The association sent out a mass email to local beekeepers and people began showing up at the airport to take the surviving bees home and hive them.
It was the best decision to help keep the bees alive, Morgan said.
Back in Alaska, some of the people who were waiting for the bees to arrive were distraught to find out what happened. Steve Estes and his wife were supposed to receive two of the packages of bees.
They said they had already prepared their bee barn for the bees’ arrival.
“The bees are somewhat like pets to us, part of our family,” Estes said.
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CNN’s Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.