20,000 bees surprise motorist at Burlington mall

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Published May 13, 2024 at 5:58 pm

20,000 bees surprise motorist at Burlington mall

Thousands of bees that swarmed the back of a woman’s car parked in a lot at a Burlington shopping mall recently weren’t from the mall’s own rooftop beehive installation.

The shopper returned to her car at the Burlington Centre Mall last Thursday (May 9) to find more than 20,000 bees parked on the trunk and bumper of her car.

While the roof at the Burlington Centre is home to a pair of honeybee hives, local beekeeper Dave Stotesbury, who was called in to help get the bees off the car, told inhalton.com he believes they were not from the rooftop.

“That is always kind of in the back of my mind,” said Stotesbury of Burlington’s Backed by Bees which partners with the Burlington Centre on the rooftop honey-making venture. “They’re confined, so the swarm didn’t come from there. There must be another beehive locally in that area. Which is where they came from.”

Finding a swarm of bees at a mall isn’t a regular occurrence, but it can happen at this time of year.

“I wouldn’t say it happens all the time, but most beehives are not housed in urban-type settings,” said Stotesbury. “I find those swarms often go off into the (neighbourhoods) or kind of stay on farm property, so it’s always a little more exciting when it happens where all the people are.

“It’s a natural process and how colonies divide and increase their numbers naturally. The bees do that on their own.”

While it can certainly be a shock when you encounter that many bees in one location, Stotesbury said as long as people keep their distance they shouldn’t worry.

“We’re dealing with honeybees and the best thing to do is call a beekeeper,” he said. “It’s kind of funny, in the sense of a beekeeper, that it’s probably an intimidating look. Yeah, you walk outside and there’s a swarm of bees on your car or in a tree, but the people actually have nothing to (worry about). They’re not at home, they don’t have any honey to defend, so basically, it’s probably when they are most docile.”

Stotesbury collected all the bees from the car and took them to Backed by Bees’ main location in north Burlington.

The swarm of bees are going to be under observation for the next couple of weeks and the beekeeper said if they’re happy and healthy they’ll go out into the yard and have a home out there.

“We were able to collect them with no protective equipment on and I don’t know of anybody who got stung. I wouldn’t advise people to go over and deal with it, but it’s not a huge threat by any means.”

As for why the bees were attracted to the one car, Stotesbury says there’s no rhyme or reason from what he’s read about it. He says the bees basically outgrow their space or its reproduction time, so they try to divide.

Wherever the queen bee lands, is where they follow.

“They have no idea where they’re going, so wherever the queen lands the swarm gathers around her, and then from there they send their scout bees to try and find a new home. If they find a home real quick, they might be in that swarm for five minutes, or it might take two or three days.

“So, they can be on the ground, on a tree or be on this car because they like the (colour) blue. No, there was no real attraction.”

Or perhaps it was even something simpler.

“Maybe she had something sweet in the back of the car, he added. “I don’t know.”

Stotesbury said if something like this is going to happen, it’s normally this time of year. It’s dandelion season, which is prime swarm season.

“This is the time when bees are really starting to populate,” he said. “It can happen from now pretty much through to Goldenrod season (when bees take advantage of the abundant pollen and nectar), but definitely your spring season daylight season is when most of it happens.”

Meanwhile, to view the rooftop pollinator program at the Burlington Centre Mall, shoppers only have to drop by the new corridor and look up.

The partnership with Burlington Centre has been fantastic for us,” said Stotesbury.

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