Not the Bees! — 5 Million Bees That Fell Off a Truck Force Road Closure in Canada

  • Oh God, they’re in my eyes! Aaaaagh!

You know that (in)famous bee scene in the Nicolas Cage version of Wicker Man? The one where he screams incoherently while having bees poured all over him?

Well, if you had ever wanted to recreate that scene, you just missed a golden opportunity.

A Canadian road in Burlington, Ontario, had to be closed on August 30 due to a bizarre traffic incident. Somehow — no one’s quite sure how — multiple boxes fell off the back of a passing truck.

Those boxes contained bees. Hordes upon hordes of bees.

Overall, an estimated five million buzzing bugs swarmed out of the shattered transport crates. And oh boy, were they pissed.

Faced with the stinging, angry cloud, local police had to summon several experienced beekeepers to try and gather up the insects. The operation took a couple of hours, but finally, the beekeepers managed to corral most of the bees into new hive boxes.

That hasn’t cleared the situation completely, though. Although the majority of the bees are now gone, that still leaves a lot of angry stingers that are estimated to buzz around for several days longer.

If you’re reading this and happen to live in Burlington, you might want to keep your car windows shut for a while.

Release the Swarm!

The incident happened early in the morning today, August 30, on Guelph Line in Burlington. At around 6:15 a.m., the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) got an unusual emergency call.

Apparently, bees had taken over a section of Guelph Line.

A truck towing a trailer full of boxes had been driving along the road when a few of the boxes fell from the trailer.

“We’re not sure how or what exactly took place but at some point, the boxes containing bees or beehives slid off the trailer and spilled all over the road,” Ryan Anderson, an HRPS media relations officer, told CBC News.

Police officers arrived at the scene, but soon realized they were powerless in the face of the swarm. After all, they couldn’t exactly arrest a bee — let alone five million of them that were buzzing all over the road.

It was clear they needed help. So, the cops called several local beekeepers to come and clear the road.

Expert Assistance

One of the beekeepers the police called is Luc Peters. He told CBC that he’s been in “sticky” situations before, but he’d never had cops call him to aid them before.

Now, us telling you that there were five million bees flying around sounds horrible. Sure, it’s a big swarm, but to an experienced beekeeper like Peters, it’s not an unmanageable number.

“It sounds bigger than it is for the most part, because a colony of bees could be 80,000 bees,” Peters said, commenting on the number of insects.

“No doubt to a non-beekeeper that would be rather intense to see regardless,” he added.

Peters also said that having this many furious bees in one place at once is a unique incident.

“Honey bees are fairly gentle and really don’t bother people unless they are bothered. This is a rare situation where you have to keep your distance from them.”

As it turns out, herding bees isn’t all that difficult — as long as you know what you’re doing. The primary goal Peters and the other beekeepers had at the scene was to identify the queen bees and place them in new hive boxes.

“The rest of the bees will follow,” he explained.

Of course, some of the beekeepers got stung during the cleanup operation. But that’s just part of the job — you have to accept that if you want to keep bees.

“I’m not fazed by it, really,” Peters said.

The Buzz Continues

Thanks to the swift response from multiple expert beekeepers, the situation on Guelph Line returned to something resembling normalcy fairly quickly. The local police declared the operation mostly finished shortly after 9 a.m. — three hours after it began.

The key word here, however, is “mostly.” Even seasoned beekeeping veterans like Peters couldn’t gather every last bee off the road and they will likely stick around for several days more.

“We’re going to be leaving some crates behind. Some of the bees have escaped and we’re hoping that they’ll naturally return to these crates and we’ll come back at a later date to pick them up once the bees have returned,” said HRPS’ Anderson.

In the meantime, the police are encouraging local pedestrians to stay away from the affected section of Guelph Line. Automobile drivers can safely use the road — as long as they remember to keep their windows firmly shut.

That’s an inconvenience for Burlington residents, but according to Peters, the whole debacle has been more difficult for the bees. Thousands of them died in the initial incident and the number of insectile casualties will likely rise in the days to come.

“[The bees] are having the worse day out of all of us,” reminded Peters.