F-22 Raptor grounded by swarm of almost 20,000 bees

Aug 11 2016 - 16 Comments

A swarm of honey bees found hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor stealth jet’s engine.

On Jun. 11, 192nd Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers found something weird during post-flight operations checks at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia: a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine.

192nd Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers found a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine on June 11, 2016 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. A local honey bee keeper was called to remove and relocate the bees to a safe place for them to build their hive. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

192nd Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers found a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine on June 11, 2016 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. A local honey bee keeper was called to remove and relocate the bees to a safe place for them to build their hive. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

“A cloud of thousands of bees” according to the 192nd Maintenance Squadron crew chief who was there.

Maintainers notified Capt. Katie Chiarantona, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Officer about the honey bee swarm explains a USAF news release.

Since this had never happened on the flight line before, Chiarantona initially called the on-base entomologist to assess the situation. The entomologist immediately knew that he did not have the means to relocate the bees, so he referred Chiarantona to a local honey bee keeper in Hampton, Virginia.

Andy Westrich, U.S. Navy retired and local bee keeper, arrived on base with the needed materials and supplies. According to Chiarantona, Westrich said the swarm was one of the largest he had ever seen. He was escorted to the aircraft and used vacuum hoses to safely corral the honey bees off of the aircraft into large buckets. He then took the bee’s home and found that, as a hive, they weighed eight pounds which calculates to almost 20,000 bees!

“The honey bees most likely came from a much larger bee hive somewhere else on base,” said Chief Master Sergeant Gregg Allen, 192nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance chief, who also happens to be a bee keeper. “Bee hives are constantly growing and they eventually become overcrowded. Around springtime, the bees will make a new queen, scout for a new location and take half of the hive with them to that location.”

Westrich suspected that the swarm of bees were on their way to a new location to build a hive for their queen. Queen bees typically fly with eggs to lay at the new hive and do not eat for up to 10 days before leaving to start a new colony. As a result, the queen is often malnourished for the journey. Westrich believes she landed on the F-22 to rest. Honey bees do not leave the queen, so they swarmed around the F-22 and eventually landed there.

According to Chiarantona “[Westrich] said that one out of two things could have happened, the queen would have rested and gained energy and the swarm would’ve left in the morning, or they would have decided that the jet engine would be a great place to build a hive.”

Westrich was able to safely relocate the colony to a local beer producer where they will maintain the honey bee colony and use the honey for their production facility.
“Every bee is important to our food source; lots of things would die without bees,” said Baskin. “Most of our crops depend on bees, and our bees need to pollinate. This is why I knew we needed to save them instead of [exterminate] them.”

192nd Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers found a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine on June 11, 2016 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Andy Westrich, U.S. Navy retired and local honey bee keeper, was called to remove and relocate the bees to a safe place for them to build their hive. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

192nd Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers found a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine on June 11, 2016 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Andy Westrich, U.S. Navy retired and local honey bee keeper, was called to remove and relocate the bees to a safe place for them to build their hive. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Salva

  • Ching-Chen Huang

    The Super Hornet sends their regards.

  • Jan Schmidt

    some more pics about the F-22B (Bee)

  • su34

    One raptor waxed, few more to go…
    The guys over at Monsanto & co. have a lot of expertise in getting rid of the swarming saboteurs.

  • FoilHatWearer

    That doesn’t look like an engine nozzle to me, that looks like the back end of a horizontal stab.

    • John Stiller

      It’s the exhaust.

      • FoilHatWearer

        I believe you, I’m sure it would make more sense to see a pic that’s more zoomed-out.

  • ScoobiJohn

    my first instinct would have been to run away as fast as i could then sneak back and fire up the jet and incinerate them :)

  • Blacktail

    The F-22 fleet must be spending an awful lot of it’s time on the ground, for a beehive to form on one of them…

    • John Stiller

      That can form in minutes.

    • It doesn’t take much for a beehive to form. In fact, when it swarms, it forms up in mere hours.

  • . . .or . .just spray the nozzle with a fire extinguisher. . . and vac up the mess. Wear bunker gear if afraid. . . .

    • Erica

      No, as they said. It’s important to relocate them. We are losing bees and need to save every last one of them or we soon won’t have food.

  • Michael Cox

    Not everyday one gets raptoured by a colony of buzzy bees.

  • Bob231

    That’s a honey of an airplane!

  • newWolforder

    All you people looking to kill them, Do you not realize that there is a honey bee shortage and with out the bees to pollanate crop growth crops will die and then eventually we do? stop always looking to destroy everything.

  • Tank50us

    People laugh at this sorta thing, but in all fairness, wildlife has done damage to Aviation.
    For example, prior to one launch, a Space Shuttles external tank served as a home for a bunch of wood-peckers, which forced a several month long delay.

    In another case, a 757 went down off the
    coast of Brazil because one of the petotubes that fed the speedometer was blocked by a mud-dobber wasp building a nest.

    This is on top of the hundreds, if not thousands of bird-strikes around airports world wide each year.

    So, yeah… it seems funny, but those little bastards can cause some serious damage.