Officials with Las Cruces Fire Department, which provided the account, said firefighters went to the scene late Sunday afternoon to find “a swarm of bees inside the vehicle.” Jesse Johnson, an off-duty firefighter who also is a beekeeper, arrived in a traditional white jacket and veiled hat and expertly removed the bees, relocating them to his property, according to a statement from the fire department.
“I’ll do anything to keep people from killing the bees,” he told the New York Times.
Photos from the fire department show hundreds of bees swarming around the car as Johnson loaded them into beehive boxes.
“Luckily, when bees are swarming, they’re pretty docile,” Johnson told the Times. “They don’t have a home to protect for a moment. It’s much more intimidating than it is dangerous.”
Johnson could not immediately be reached by The Washington Post.
Honey bee experts say incidents such as this one are not that uncommon this time of year. During “swarm season,” crowded colonies often split as a means of reproduction — with the old queen and about half of her worker bees leaving the hive in search of a new home. Johnson told the Times that he suspected the swarm might have come from a hive in a nearby parapet, a gutter or a house.
While in transit, the swarm will land on something nearby such as a tree branch, a fence post or even a grocery shopper’s car, while the scout bees venture out and search for a spot for a new nest, said Jamie Ellis, a professor in the Entomology and Nematology Department at the University of Florida.
When the scout bees find the ideal place, the cluster flies to the new place to build a new home, he said.
“When a colony splits, it can be a pretty intimidating-looking thing to someone who is not a beekeeper,” Ellis told The Post.
Experts say it is highly unlikely that the bees in this case chose the car as their new nest site but simply were clustering there for a bit, making it more of a campsite. If the bees had been left alone, they probably would have relocated on their own within a few hours or days, the experts said.
But, they acknowledged, it’s not always possible to let nature take its course.
Officials with Las Cruces Fire Department said, “to mitigate the midafternoon hazard the large swarm presented in a relatively high-traffic area, firefighters determined the best remedy was to have the swarm removed and relocated swiftly.”
Authorities secured the area while Johnson removed the bees, the statement read.
Officials said that an Albertson’s security guard was stung in the process but that no major injuries were reported.