This Thing Called Courage

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

10,000 Bees Land on Plane

(from the Gloucester Daily Times)

Honeybees buzz parked plane at Beverly Airport
By Ethan FormanStaff writer
June 02, 2009 05:45 am—
DANVERS — You've heard of snakes on a plane, but on Sunday there were about 10,000 bees on a plane at Beverly Airport.
A swarm of honeybees landed on the wing of a plane used for flight school training, parked on the tarmac of the airport's west side off Burley Street.
It was the type of landing the owner of Beverly Flight Center, Arne Nordeide, had never witnessed.
"I never saw anything like it," Nordeide said.
Nordeide called Danvers police, who put him in touch with a local bee removal expert, Al Wilkins of Middleton.
Wilkins arrived and used a specially designed vacuum to suck the bees off the wing and from the ground below the plane. Wilkins has relocated the bees to hives where they will produce honey.
"I thought they were crash-landed in the airport," said Wilkins, who has been removing bees from houses and structures since 1978.
Nordeide said the bees were spotted buzzing around the wing of the Piper Warrior aircraft around 11 a.m. This plane does not sit around much — it flies five to six hours a day.
"The plane had already flown around 8 a.m.," Nordeide said, "and all of a sudden, they (the bees) decided to land."
At first, the bees swarmed over the left side of the aircraft, then landed on top of the left wing. The weather was hot, Nordeide said, so that may be why they went under the wing.
At this time of year, Wilkins said, his phone is buzzing with calls to remove bee swarms, which happen when an old queen bee leaves the hive with a group of followers in search of a place to make a new nest. The queen leaves the hive to make way for a new queen about to hatch in special cells inside.
"That's how they propagate," said Wilkins, who estimated the swarm at 10,000.
Wilkins said the windy day may have forced the swarm down as it came across the airport. The queen, who is not used to flying long distances, may have stopped to rest, and the other bees congregated around to protect her. The bees usually have a destination picked out in advance.
Wilkins, the past president of the Essex County Bee Association, and his wife, Linda, live on Mill Street in Middleton, and in April their hives were plundered by a black bear. A motion-activated camera captured an image of the bear milling about their backyard. It destroyed about eight hives, costing them hundreds of dollars.
"This is replacing the hives (the bear) ate," Wilkins said of the bees he picked up in Danvers.
Wilkins, who also raises exotic birds, is not taking any more chances. He has relocated his hives from his yard to a farm in Boxford, to a location in Seabrook, N.H., and to the Essex Agricultural and Technical School in Danvers.
Staff Writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, or by e-mail at eforman@salemnews.com.
Copyright © 1999-2008 cnhi, inc.

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