Buzz Off!: Flight Delayed For Four Hours When Swarm Of Bees Latches Onto Wing
MAHLBERG, GERMANY - MAY 19: Honey bees sit on a honeycomb on May 19, 2008 in Mahlberg near Freiburg, Germany. According to the German bee keepers association in the last few days honey bees died massively due to the use of pesticides. Seed corn that was sowed in the last weeks is mostly treated with clothianidin, a chemical used to protect roots from pest.
Ralph Orlowski/Getty Images

A commercial flight from Houston to Atlanta was the recipient of significant buzz on Wednesday.

A swarm of bees apparently tried to hitch a ride on the Delta Airlines flight out of Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental on Wednesday. The plane was delayed for about four hours while staff tried to figure out what to do about the hundreds of bees congregating on the tip of an airplane wing. A passenger on the flight live-tweeted the whole ordeal as it happened.

“My flight leaving Houston is delayed because bees have congregated on the tip of one of the wings,” author and scholar Anjali Enjeti tweeted at around 12:20 p.m. local time Wednesday. “They won’t let us board until they remove the bees. But how on earth will this happen? Won’t they leave the wing when we take off?”

According to Enjeti, the bees swarmed onto the plane as soon as it pulled up to the gate. Officials at the airport were originally going to call pest control; they then said they were going to call a beekeeper to attempt to hive the bees. Airport personnel were perplexed and took pictures of the swarm.

The captain later updated the passengers on the flight. The bee keeper could not come because he was not allowed to touch the airplanes; neither could pest controllers, who are not allowed to spray the planes; neither could the fire department, for undetermined reasons; the airport workers did not have a hose to spray the plane, either. Someone did approach the plane later with a hose, but backed off, to the dismay of passengers.

In a last ditch effort, the pilot said he would taxi the plane in an effort to shake the swarm off. As soon as the plane’s engines turned on, the bees left.


Passengers were initially dismayed to learn that the gate was being given to another flight, and questions swirled as to whether they would be given another flight or if it would be canceled. Fortunately, the plane was transferred to another gate; the passengers finally boarded the flight around 4:30.

A professional apiarist who has experience removing swarms from airplanes told local news outlet KHOU that the swarm is very common this time of year, and that the bees were simply resting. “They usually start in the south and they move towards the north,” Mike Sexton, a.k.a. “The Bee Man,” said. “Whenever bee swarms start, they’re going to gorge themselves with a bunch of honey and the old queen is going to take off with a bunch of workers so they’re not going to eat again until they actually get to a new home, so in the meantime they rest and conserve their energy, so they land on anything.”

The Houston flight delay came just one day after another un-bee-lievable incident in Florida. More than a million bees swarmed a Florida highway Tuesday when a tractor trailer collided with another truck hauling more than five million of the insects on their way to produce honey. The beekeeper is still counting his losses, both financially and numerically, as many of them flew away from the scene of the crash. Fortunately, despite a million potential hazards in the air, no injuries were reported.

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