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Posted on: May 21, 2019 at 11:51 am
Last updated: August 3, 2019 at 12:52 pm

The Earth is full of strange and wonderful occurrences but few are quite as bizarre as the time a swarm of bees once followed a car for two whole days to rescue their queen who was trapped in the trunk of a silver Mitsubishi Outlander. This was obviously not normal bee behavior and the entire ordeal makes for a good tale.

That doesn’t happen every day

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This event which reads like the plot of the next animated blockbuster from Pixar unfolded on Sunday, May 22, 2016, at Haverfordwest, West Wales. It all started when the owner of the vehicle, Carol Howarth, a 68-year-old grandmother decided to spend her day off at a nature reserve [1]. There was nothing special about this visit as it was one she had made many times before.

When she was done, Carol decided to do some shopping in town. Shortly after parking in the town center, a swarm of over 20,000 insects flew down to cover the back end of the vehicle [2]. As you would expect, this surprising sight quickly drew the attention of nearby passersby who stopped and take pictures of the strange spectacle.

Luckily, Tom Moses, a Pembrokeshire Coast National Park ranger was driving through and saw the bee mass. “A lot of people were really amazed by it, cars were slowing down and people were taking pictures of it,” he said. “I was a little bit concerned, with it being in the middle of town outside a pub, that someone might do something stupid and get hurt or do something stupid and hurt the bees.” [3].

Fearing that the bees might be poorly handled or someone would get hurt, he quickly called in a team of beekeepers. By the time Carol finally returned to her car, the swarm had been captured and contained in a cardboard box with the help of one national park ranger, three beekeepers, and members of the public.

You can’t get rid of us that easily

Believing that the problem had been resolved, Mrs. Howarth drove home no doubt puzzled. However, on Monday morning, she discovered that the swarm was not done yet. The bees had followed her home and were covering the car once again. She contacted the beekeepers again and they were able to remove the swarm, for good this time.

So, what really happened

A popular theory is that a bee queen was trapped in the car and the swarm were attracted to her. According to Roger Burns of Pembrokeshire Beekeepers, “We think the queen bee had been attracted to something in the car, perhaps something sweet, and had got into a gap on the boot’s wiper blade or perhaps the hinge.” [3]. It is normal for queens to move if the hive is disturbed and members of colonies often follow when this happens.

However, according to Carol, “They [beekeepers] couldn’t find the queen anywhere so I’ve no idea if that was right.” Beekeepers on the scene believe that the queen may have fled without their noticing. Whatever the case, it is quite a surprising and amusing experience to have your car followed by a swarm of bees for two days.

  1. McLoughlin, L. (2016). Bees chase car for 2 days to rescue queen. [online] CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/25/europe/bees-car-queen-wales-trnd/index.html [Accessed 30 May 2019].
  2. Yorke, H. (2016). Swarm of bees follow grandmother’s car for over 24 hours attempting to rescue their queen. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/24/swarm-of-bees-follow-grandmothers-car-for-over-24-hours-attempti/ [Accessed 30 May 2019].
  3. TreeHugger. (2019). Swarm of bees follows car for 2 days to rescue queen trapped in back. [online] Available at: https://www.treehugger.com/animals/swarm-bees-follow-car-2-days-rescue-queen-trapped-trunk.html [Accessed 30 May 2019].
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