The bees buzzed furiously as driver Lane Miller, his arm scraped to the bone, struggled to flee his rig after it overturned Monday in Bear Trap Canyon west of Bozeman. The truck slid across the highway before coming to a stop between guardrails.
"I had to kick the windshield out of the front of the cab and the bees were on me from that moment," said Miller, 41. "I've never felt so much fear in my life."
Miller walked away from the crash, and two people picked him up and took him to the hospital. Miller underwent surgery on his arm and suffered bruises and about 20 stings.
The state road was closed for 14 hours as crews and beekeepers cleaned up the 512 hives Miller was hauling from Idaho to North Dakota.
In spite of bee suits and extra clothing, beekeeper Gary Clark said he counted about 60 stings of his own.
"Everybody had literally thousands of bees on them, in their hats and on their suits," Clark said. "When we pulled the boxes out, big globs of them would fall on us."
Firefighters directing traffic also suffered stings.
"The bees were so agitated you could barely see the beekeepers or the wreckage itself, just because of the cloud of bees that were swarming," said fire chief Shawn Christiansen.
It wasn't until 3 am. Tuesday that a tow truck got in to haul out the tractor-trailer, leaving behind pools of honey from the overturned hives.
State Transportation Department employees dropped sand on the road to soak up the sticky mess.