A Las Cruces, New Mexico, man returned to his car after grocery shopping and started driving away, only to find that his car had been invaded by a swarm of 15,000 bees.
Officials with Las Cruces Fire Department, posting to Facebook Sunday afternoon, responded to the scene and wrote that they found a “swarm of bees” inside the Buick.
“He called 911 because he didn’t know what to do,” Jesse Johnson, a firefighter and paramedic with the Las Cruces Fire Department, told the New York Times.
Las Cruces firefighters called Johnson, who was off-duty but is a beekeeper in his spare time, to help clear the bees off the scene.
“I’ll do anything to keep people from killing the bees,” he told the Times, saying that he arrived with a hive kit, lemongrass oil, gloves and proper attire — proper tools of the trade, according to the Facebook post.
Photos from the fire department show thousands of bees — an estimated 15,000, in fact — swarming around the car as Johnson loads them into beehive boxes. The colony is now living on his property.
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The fire crew “was on scene for nearly two hours while the bees were removed and re-homed,” the Facebook post said. A security guard at Albertsons was stung and it is possible a few patrons may have had close encounters, but no major injuries were reported.
“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.”
The Las Cruces Fire Department does not usually remove bee swarms.
But “to mitigate the mid-afternoon 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,” they said.
What do you do if you’re in a similar situation? If you see more than one honey bee and suspect a swarm is nearby, stay away from the area,J. Breen Pierce, entomologist at New Mexico State University wrote in an article on the subject.
Bees are generally harmless if you don’t disturb them.
Experts told The Washington Post that it was highly unlikely that the bees chose the car in this case as their new nest site, and if the bees had been left alone, would have probably relocated in a few hours or days.
If you are attacked by bees, run away as fast as possible and call 911, wrote Pierce.