Summer 2017 has been the summer of swarms. Even if the buzzworthy news flew by you, tens of thousands of bees have descended upon humanity multiple times this season, infesting vans in New York City and office buildings in Washington, D.C.
Whether they were simply congratulating Queen Bey on the birth of her twin sons, just needed to vent about the state of our nation, or are truly on the rebound after years of startling population declines is up for debate. Here are five swarms that have terrorized humans this summer alone, and experts’ explanations for why they might have taken place.
5. Matchbox 20-Thousand Bees
Thousands of bees swarmed a Matchbox 20 concert in Tuscon, Arizona on August 3, delaying the show by over 90 minutes, according to local news. The hive apparently headed straight for the reserved seating section at the venue, triggering a call to a local beekeeper and preventing the real VIPs from taking their seats on time.
Matchbox 20 frontman Rob Thomas was apparently in good spirits despite the delay, posting on his Instagram about the stranger than fiction swarm. At 8:23 p.m., he posted a photo with the caption: “Beekeeper has arrived!! Still trying to make this happen. Can’t make this up!” After the show, Thomas returned to the ‘gram, this time with an image of the successful beekeeper and the caption “Thanx #Tucson for waiting around. So glad we got the show to happen!”
While things worked out for these fans, the honey has soured in southern Arizona. Four swarms have been reported in Tuscon this week, according to the Arizona Daily Sun, leaving two men dead. On July 31, a landscaper died from a bee attack while trimming trees. Two days later, on Aug. 2, another man was killed by a swarm while golfing.
4. Bright Lights, Big Bees
On June 28, an estimated 30,000 bees began plotting revenge from above Times Square in New York City. They sat there, practically oozing over a ledge on the building where the New Year’s Eve ball drops, until professional beekeeper and local hero Andrew Coté vacuumed the insects into a special backpack for safekeeping.
Coté, who owns Andrew’s Honey and managed bees in New York City, told CBS at the time that swarms like these are often triggered by stress in the hive. “They’re either overpopulated in the hive they’re in, or they don’t have good ventilation,” Coté said. “But in any case, the queen leaves and she takes a third to a half with her so they can start a new colony. It’s how one colony becomes two, it’s how they propagate their species.”
3. Melee in Midtown
While they’re harrowing, summer swarms aren’t particularly rare, as healthy hives often split up in the late spring and early summer, causing a buzz along the way.
Just a few weeks before the aforementioned scene in Times Square, an estimated 2,000 bees descended on a van in midtown Manhattan, forcing the police to shut down the entire block. And the police didn’t stop there. Once these bees were collected, they were reportedly relocated to the New York Police Department’s own private apiary, which is their attempt to do their part in preventing bee populations from dwindling further.
2. “This is Not a Political Statement”
Part of the reason there’s been so many bees swarming in big cities is the rise in urban beekeeping in recent years, after previous bans on beekeeping were finally lifted.
NPR was one entity to get swept up by the hive mind. In 2013, the leader in public radio installed two hives, Swarming Edition and All Things Considered, atop its Washington, D.C. headquarters. The green roof was supposed to be a tranquil, eco-friendly space, and by all accounts it was and will remain so.
But for a few days in early May, bees from one of the hives swarmed the capital city’s streets, following their queen to a new and indeterminate location, as bees are wont to do. “A swarm of potential stingers were unleashed on Washington, D.C. this week,” NPR’s Scott Simon reported at the time. “This is not a political statement.”
1. Forget Brexit, Let’s Talk Beexit
Americans aren’t the only ones coping with feisty bees. In May, traffic in London was brought to a standstill when a swarm of bees descended on this intersection in the southeast part of the city at rush hour. “And while I was videoing them I looked down and I could see literally the front of me covered in bees. They were on me. They were on everybody. They were in your hair, on your top,” local shopkeeper Abigail Hering told the Telegraph.