Why Do Bees Swarm Airports?


A swarm of bees kept US Airways Flight 2690 grounded at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport yesterday afternoon for over two hours. The plane, which was heading to Indianapolis, was unable to take off when the swarm surrounded the nose of the plane. Since some people on board were allergic to bees, the passengers were kept on the plane to avoid contact with the insects. A beekeeper was called in to dissolve the dilemma — an appropriate response to a situation like this since honeybees, which are becoming rapidly endangered, play an instrumental role in agriculture. But this isn’t the first time bees have affected air travel, nor will it be the last.Swarming bees are not, despite pop culture representation, aggressive. To the contrary, these bees are full of honey they stored up on for their trip and are relatively placid — they’re just looking for a new home. Swarms develop when a colony has become overpopulated. The old queen bee assembles a team of workers to follow her to a new location, which is determined and agreed upon by scout bees. The swarm typically travels only 20 minutes or so from its original location to the new hive. Every now and then, the location for the new hive is not ideal -– as in the case of swarms near airports or airplanes. A beekeeper is usually then brought in to help relocate the migrating bees.

Yesterday’s occurrence wasn’t the first time swarming bees affected air travel. Here are some other flights affected by bee interference:

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