MONTREAL - Canada Post workers frantically searched depots across the country this week in a hunt for survivors among live cargo caught in the middle of the labour dispute.

The lockout marooned live animals in its warehouses, the organization said Friday, putting stranded creatures in a mortal race against time.

"We had chicks, we had crickets, we had all kinds of animals in our system," Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier said, adding it's likely that leeches and reptiles are also among the missing.

"(Since the lockout began) we've tried to find any live animal in our system so that we can either return to sender or call the person to whom they were destined to, so they could pick them up."

Losier said that in at least one case, locked-out employees helped management locate missing crates of queen bees lost in a warehouse the size of 52 football fields.

But some Canada Post clients are already blaming the labour conflict for claiming hundreds of lives -- along with a chunk of their business.

Quebec bee breeder Anicet Desrochers said he has left his shipment of 320 queen bees for dead because the insects can't survive for more than a few days in the boxes.

"We had some shipments that were not delivered because of the lockout," Desrochers said of packages that were supposed to be en route to destinations in British Columbia and Alberta.

"They died during transportation."

Desrochers, owner of Miels d'Anicet in Ferme-Neuve, Que., said the shipments -- worth nearly $6,000 in total -- could not be insured and some of his other customers have since cancelled their orders.

He said he tried to contact Canada Post, but never got a reply.

Desrochers doesn't know what he's going to do because Canada Post is the only company that will ship live bees in his region.

"We're stuck with Canada Post," said Desrochers, who will have to transport the bees himself -- 500 kilometres round-trip -- to Montreal.

Canada Post insists that five boxes of bees found in Montreal are the only victims across the country. Losier said the sender was contacted, but didn't want to pick up the insects because they were probably already dead.

There was a happier discovery late Friday.

A bee breeder rushed to a Montreal warehouse when informed that his shipment of 100 queen bees had been located in the back of a delivery truck. After long moments of suspense, he discovered that his cargo was still buzzing.

"We're just very thankful we were able to find the box," Losier said.

The Canada Post spokeswoman said this high-profile queen bee search even created a temporary ceasefire between management and locked-out workers.

They agreed to work together after the story of a distraught Quebec beekeeper named Raphael Vacher made headlines in the province.

His order of queen bees was stranded behind the picket line in the Montreal warehouse, the company's second-largest facility.

Losier said unionized workers left the picket line to help plant superintendents rifle through the warehouse.

"The union has agreed to this. . . to help Mr. Vacher find his bees," she said Friday. "We had several people looking for them, the search intensified this morning."

A board member of the Canadian Honey Council hadn't heard about any stranded bee shipments, but the situations in Quebec didn't come as a surprise.

"I had assumed there would be quite a bit of that going on," said Bryan Ash, a beekeeper from Manitoba.

"Once the queens are stuck in shipment, they will be dead.

"Without water and everything else, you're probably talking two to three days and they're done."