As It Happens

A Mitsubishi fit for a queen. Why 20K bees couldn't leave this SUV alone

After 20,000 bees swarm an SUV for two days straight, the culprit is revealed: they were just trying to follow their Queen Bee, who had snuck under the car's windshield wiper.
Beekeeper Roger Burns says he was stung 20 times trying to persuade the colony into a box. (Tom Moses/Facebook)
Listen6:44
On Sunday, Roger Burns got a knock at the door. The resident of Pembrokeshire, Wales was asked to investigate a serious situation down the road, involving a swarm of bees. Burns is a beekeeper, so he was prepared for this sort of thing — or so he thought.

"I just whipped the veil on and went down to see what was happening with a dustpan, brush and a box," Burns tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Beekeeper Roger Burns in his suit inspecting a frame of bees at his apiary. (Roger Burns)

When he arrived on the scene Burns found the trunk and roof of a parked Mitsubishi SUV absolutely covered with bees.

"I should think about 20,000 — it was a swarm!"

Tom Moses, a ranger at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park first spotted the vehicle and called the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers' Association.

(Tom Moses/Facebook)

"Nobody could find the owner of the car so I tried to rescue the swarm by brushing it into the box and then leaving the box with the entrance right over the hinge and the wiper blade insert for the rear window," Burns explains.

He figured the bees were trying to reach the queen and that she may have crawled into the car through the narrow hinge. Eventually Burns collected the majority of the colony and left the rest of the work to another beekeeper. But suddenly a gust of wind came up and blew the box full of the collected bees right off the car.

"All the bees then escaped and of course the queen was a bit disturbed and I imagine she went right back to where she'd come from — back into the car because that was where she was used to and had left her scent," Burns explains.

(Tom Moses/Facebook)

Another beekeeper managed to recapture the bees and took them down the road to safety. Meanwhile, the owner of the car drove off, unaware that the queen was still in her trunk.  

"We got a phone call at midday to say 'there was the same car, in another location, outside the owner's house with a swarm of bees on the back of it again!'" Burns explains. "The queen-less colony three miles away had obviously scented the queen's pheromones and had come back to her!"

One of the beekeepers on the scene trying to coax the colony off the SUV. (Tom Moses/Facebook)

For all his efforts, Burns says he was stung close to 20 times. But he is happy to report that 36 hours after the swarm was first spotted, the colony finally appears to be reunited, queen and all.

To hear the full story, take a listen to our interview.

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