(March 19, 9:15 a.m.) A Sacramento, Calif., traffic accident involving a truck carrying beehives destined for Yakima, Wash., will have minimal effect on grower-shippers in central Washington, but it could be expensive for the bees’ owner, said a Yakima-area beekeeper.

“It was only 440 hives, and some of them were saved,” said Jerry Sells, owner of Mj Bee Honey Co., Moxee, Wash. “That’s not enough bees to put somebody out of business.”

Some Yakima area beekeepers have thousands of hives, he said.

According to the California Highway Patrol, as many as 12 million bees were released from the hives March 16 when a flatbed truck rolled onto its side on a freeway onramp. The bees had been used to pollinate crops in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and were en route to the apple, pear and stone fruit orchards near Yakima, the highway patrol said.

“The accident could be a disaster for the beekeeper if he didn’t have insurance, but not for the farmers,” Sells said. “They will be able to get bees from other beekeepers.”

Warm temperatures have brought early blossoms to some stone fruit varieties on the east side of the Cascade Mountain range, said Greg Cummins, vice president of sales and marketing for E.W. Brandt & Sons Inc., Wapato, Wash.

“Some of the apricots down in the Tri-Cities area are in full bloom,” Cummins said.

In the E.W. Brandt & Sons orchards near Yakima, buds have been swelling and some are beginning to push out blossoms, Cummins said. E.W. Brandt & Sons grows stone fruit, apples and pears.

The early apricot blooms are a concern to grower-shippers, Sells said, because the hives owned by most Washington beekeepers are in California during the winter months.

“We leave the bees down in California,” Sells said, “because they do not over winter up here very well, and we get too much money off of them in California.”