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Thousands of bees swarm downtown Prince George

RCMP were asking the public to stay away from George Street in downtown Prince George yesterday because "thousands of bees" were swarming outside of the Ramada Hotel Inn.

"There were so many you could barely see through them," says Kevin Eastman, front desk manager at the Ramada. "It's just one big swarm. We weren't sure what was going on at the time, to tell you the truth.

"All you could see is just little dots."

Listen to Kevin Eastman describe the swarm, and hear a full interview with beekeper Gerald Bomford:

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Bees came from city hall

On Twitter, the city of Prince George confirmed the bees came from hives that had been placed on the roof of city hall as part of an environmental initiative and to respond to the worldwide decline in bees.

RCMP called beekeeper Gerald Bomford to help assess the situation. He says by the time he arrived on the scene, there wasn't much he could do.

"By the time I got there the swarm had pretty much, for all intents and purposes, been destroyed," he says. "I'm pretty sure what happened is a vehicle or several vehicles drove right through it and over top of it. And of course when they did that, they killed a lot of the bees."

Bomford says the remaining bees had lost their queen, and so "milled around aimlessly."

Swarm a result of overcrowding

Bomford says swarms tend to form when existing colonies get too large for their current hives.

"They jam the box that we keep them in to the bursting point. The beekeeping process is that what you have to try and do is try and stay ahead of that process and try to capitalize on it."

In this case, he speculates the bees went in search of space for a new colony and settled in a tree downtown before being disturbed and spilling out onto the street.

Bomford says although swarms can be the size of a beachball and move quite fast, they aren't dangerous.

"When they're involved in this process they only have one focus," he says. "You could put your hand right into that mass, and if you could secure the queen inside that mass, you could carry it."

Hives to be removed

Bomford says some of the bees may return to their hive, while other may form new colonies. 

On Twitter, the city says the hives on top of city hall will be removed.

The aftermath of a swarm of bees that descended on downtown Prince George Tuesday afternoon (Andrew Kurjata/CBC).

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