Friday, June 27, 2008

Thousands of honey bees

Shoppers were stunned when a massive swarm of thousands of honey bees touched down in a busy city centre.

Around 15,000 insects gathered in Queen Street, Exeter, at around lunchtime on Tuesday.

While some people darted for cover, others stood and watched the aerial acrobatics.
BeesThe local beekeeper was called in to remove the somewhat confused bees

BeesInvasion: 15,000 bees descended on Bella Italia restaurant in Exeter city centre

After around five minutes, the swarm flew underneath a table outside Bella Italia, setting up camp for several hours.

The swarm of over 15,000 bees was roughly a metre in diameter and around an inch thick.

Speaking from inside Bella Italia, supervisor Joe Heginworth, 18, said: 'I've never seen anything like this before.

'There's a pile of people outside watching them and taking photographs on their mobile phones.'

BeesSpecial ops: A local bee-keeper arrives to deal with the swarm ...

Brenda Cann, 62, saw the bees arrive from outside Queen Street News, where she works.

She said: 'They were coming down from the direction of the High Street.

'They near enough stretched across the whole of Queen Street, but I wasn't really worried.

'A lot of people were coming in to ask what was going on.'

A police spokesman said members of the public started to report the swarm from around 1.30pm.

'One call said there was a large colony of bees coming up from the pavement and they were concerned someone might get stung,'' he said.

Bees... while a team of police officers was despatched to provide back up

The bees were cordoned off to prevent anybody getting too close for comfort.

Milly Lefebvre, 37, was on her lunch break from the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, in Queen Street, when she spotted the commotion.

'It seemed to be a huge amount of bees in a very little space,' she said.

'There was still a group of teenagers having coffee next to them. It was quite surreal.'

Exeter City Council's pest control team was called in to remove the insects with the help of local beekeeper, John Baston.

Mr Easton, 64, said the bees probably stopped for a breather while looking for a new home.

He said some swarms could be aggressive and caution should be taken when dealing with them.

'I was collecting a similar swarm last week and I received 50 stings on the back of one glove alone,' he said.

'Under those circumstances, if you are not protected it can be quite dangerous.

'My advice for anyone who comes across a swarm is to leave them alone and call an expert.'

Mr Easton, who has kept bees for 25 years, said he removed the swarm by gently picking up a chair the majority had settled on before shaking it above an open hive.

'The idea was for the queen bee to fall into the hive and the others to stay in there with her,' he added.

Mr Easton said he would take the bees home and give them 20Ibs of sugar syrup before checking them several times for signs of disease.

'If they are free of disease I will continue to build up their stores to see them through the winter,' he said.

A council spokeswoman said: 'It's the time of year for bees to swarm and it's not unusual for swarms to appear in the centre of Exeter.'


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