Five beekeepers, park wardens and passersby spent hours trying to get the bees safely into a cardboard box to transport them away.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on October 1, 2020.
Very few species have perfected loyalty better than the worker bee. Once a queen bee has been selected and raised, she is constantly attended to by a "court" of worker bees who feed and groom her. Because she plays such a vital role in the hive's survival, they follow her around and go to great lengths to ensure her well-being and safety. In fact, such is their dedication that they would even be ready to tail a 65-year-old's Mitsubishi Outlander for two days to rescue their queen from inside the trunk of the car.
According to CNN, the elderly woman got the shock of her life when a swarm of 20,000 bees descended on her car after a trip to a nature reserve. Carol Howarth had no idea that she'd picked up a very important tiny-winged passenger during her visit and only realized that something was amiss when thousands and thousands of bees came down on her car when she stopped to go shopping in Haverfordwest, Wales. The disgruntled swarm had chased down the vehicle from the reserve and then attached themselves to the rear of the car for more than 48 hours.
Howarth said she "had never seen anything like it," reports The Independent. Local ranger Tom Moses actually witnessed the whole incident and shared a very amusing blow-by-blow of it on his Facebook in a post titled "Bee-rilliant swarmathon." Describing the efforts to send the bees on their way without causing them any harm, he wrote: "Driving through town noticed this going on outside the Lower Three Crowns and couldn't resist getting involved! (bees need our help and I worried that some idiot would come to pour boiling water over them or something stupid!)."
Moses, who works as a Pembrokeshire Coast National Park ranger, then called reinforcements from the Pembrokeshire Beekeepers Association to handle the bizarre situation. "Roger the beekeeper #1 appeared with a box to put them in and swept some in, then left for a dinner date leaving me backing up Andrew the (rusty) beekeeper #2 (ie watching him and offering encouragement)," he recounted. "At first, bees nicely started going into the box. Stung. Then they started to come out again. Hmmmmm. Had a beer. Stung. Andrew doing a great job, bees in. Stung. Then they were coming out again. Wheres the Queen? In the box, or hiding in the crack between boot and car panel? Stung again."
"Spoke to Jeremy beekeeper #3 - on Eurostar, but said he'd send help. A drunk bloke from pub went and swept a load of bees off the car with hand looking for the queen, got stung loads pfffft... Beekeeper #4 (man with no name) turned up with a full suit and Smokey thing, stung again, twice - why do they just go for your head? All under control, so buggered off home before stung again. 3 hours well spent, and avoided painting for a bit! The best thing to happen in Haverfordwest for years - should get a load of hives in Castle Square," Moses concluded. Five beekeepers, park wardens and passersby spent hours trying to get the bees safely into a cardboard box to transport them away.
However, shortly after they painstakingly managed to achieve this feat, the wind blew off the lid of the box and the queen once again became lodged in the car’s rear compartment. "We think the queen had been attracted to something in the car, perhaps something sweet, and had got into a gap on the boot’s wiper blade or perhaps the hinge," Roger Burns, from Pembrokeshire Beekeepers Association, told the Milford Mercury. "I left the cardboard box on the roof while we waited for the last few hundred bees to leave the boot but then a gust of wind blew it off and the queen fled back to the boot again. I have been beekeeping for 30 years and I have never seen a swarm do that. It is natural for them to follow the queen but it is a strange thing to see and quite surprising to have a car followed for two days. It was quite amusing."