Tuesday was anything but a routine day for Deputy Brandon Jenkins, who spent three hours in his patrol car after nearly 50,000 honeybees decided to park on it.
The Wake County Sheriff’s Office officer had responded around 9:40 a.m. to a call of a person possibly being attacked by bees. He found a disabled truck on U.S. 64 a few miles east of Raleigh, North Carolina. Behind it was a trailer holding 60 boxes of bees.
The truck driver, who was headed for Rocky Mount, had been hauling the bees at night, when they are quiet and not apt to fly. He spent a couple hours after daybreak trying to get someone to tow the trailer and his truck.
That’s when Jenkins, 31, pulled up 50 yards behind in his Dodge Charger. By then, the day was beginning to warm.
“The bees were hot and bothered,” said Charles Heatherly, one of two beekeepers who later swarmed to Jenkins’ assistance. It was not clear how the bees got away from the truck, but a lid from one box was seen on the side of the road.
“It was mind-boggling how many bees were out there,” Jenkins told CNN. Eventually, the vehicles were towed off, leaving him still in his Dodge.
“I was told that usually when a truck starts moving, the bees will follow behind.”
Jennifer Keller, who assisted Heatherly, said the leftover bees were likely drawn to the light color of the Dodge. The insects spent the next three hours crawling over the vehicle, especially on the trunk and side panels.
“At some point, it was hard to see out of the windows,” said Jenkins.
Heatherly, a hobbyist, and Keller, a honeybee technician at North Carolina State University, went to work. “They got a little testy,” said Heatherly who, like Keller, was not wearing a protective body suit.
They used smoke on the bees, which Keller says “masks their communication,” and a spray bottle of sugar water. The sticky mix makes it harder for the bees to fly and they concentrate on grooming themselves rather than attacking humans.
At some point, Jenkins was advised to drive his patrol car some distance to blow the bees off. But that didn’t work.
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Eventually, the beekeepers brushed the bees onto a piece of plastic and then into a hive box.
Keller and Heatherly between them were stung only three or four times. Jenkins said about six bees got in his patrol car. He dispatched a couple when “they got too close to my personal space.”
Tuesday’s incident was an unusual demonstration of how bees stick together.
“They pull together as a unit,” said Keller. “As a whole, they are quite amazing.