Bee Swarms Keep Jets Grounded
Are bees trying to snag a free flight? Or is a tired queen bee looking for a temporary resting place for her swarming colony on their way to a new hive?
While it is a relatively rare occurrence, bees landing on airplanes happens more often than you'd expect.
This most recent report is from September 2019. An Air India jet in Kolkata, India was preparing to fly to Agartala. The flight was already late for technical reasons, but things got “wild” when a swarm of thousands of honeybees appeared out of nowhere and covered the cockpit's left side window. The pilot’s view was obscured, so the jet was going nowhere.
Airport workers trying to remove the bees were attacked. Windshield wipers could not handle the task.
This Sky News Australia video clip is less than half a minute long:
Finally, an hour after it all began and with no other obvious options, the airport’s fire department was called in. The fire brigade blasted a water cannon at the bees, spraying them with water. After about an hour they were all off the windscreen.
The airplane finally took off for Agartala after more than three hours of bee removal strategies, and although the passengers were extremely late, they had a unique story to share.
Things could have been worse. If the bees had flown into the jet engines, it could have damaged the airplane and even caused harm to some passengers.
Last year, Mango Airlines had a swarm of bees fly into a plane engine in South Africa. Three flights had to be delayed while bee removal professionals used a palm frond to coax the bees from the engine. Normally they would have smoked them out, but since it was a jet engine the smoke might have been harmful.
The year before that, an American Airlines jet was four hours late leaving Miami, Florida due to a swarm of bees landing near the cargo hold of the plane. A bee removal professional was called to the scene, and passengers had to disembark until the jet was bee-free.
The video above is 1:24 minutes long, and shows a huge swarm of bees that landed on the wing of a Citilink jet in North Sumatra, Indonesia in September 2017. The bees had to be blasted away by water, which took 90 minutes. It was speculated that logging practices in the area have disrupted the bees natural habitat and they were looking for a new home.
In June 2016, Vietnamese Airlines passengers had a similar experience. They were trapped inside the plane for their own safety after a swarm of bees landed on the airplane’s nose cone and covered it. The plane had flown into Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Vietnam.
In 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported that Africanized honeybees were showing up in large numbers at airports across the US Southwest and vexing pilots. Las Vegas exterminator George Botta was quoted as saying that having a swarm of bees in an engine would be like “pouring a tank of honey into the engine.” David Marder of Bee Busters, a bee removal company in Southern California, said he was frequently called to airports to handle unreported bee problems. His preferred swarm removal technique: suck the bees up with a vacuum.
Bees seek places to rest when they swarm, and usually choose a tree or natural setting, but such places are not available when their travel route takes them across vast open spaces like airports with all their runways. This may cause an exhausted swarm to land on a plane.
Have you ever been on an aircraft when a swarm of bees attached to it? Please share your story over on our Facebook page!