Nearly 20,000 Bees Swarm F-22 Raptor at Langley Air Force Base

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. (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. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Searching for a new home is never easy, even for honeybees.

One of the military's most advanced fighter jets temporarily served as home to thousands of honeybees at Langley Air Force Base before being discovered by the F-22's caretakers.

Soon enough, they had to find a less expensive resting place than the tail end of the stealthy multimillion-dollar aircraft.

"I was shocked like everyone else because it looked like a cloud of thousands of bees, but I knew they wouldn't sting anyone and were just looking for a new place to live," Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Baskin, 192nd Maintenance Squadron crew chief, said in an Air Force story about the June 11 incident.

The Air Force had never experienced this problem on the flight line at Langley, so it called Andy Westrich, a local beekeeper and Navy retiree to come out to remove the insects. Westrich used vacuum hoses to get them off the aircraft's exhaust nozzle and place them in large buckets, according to the Air Force story.

"My neighbor maintains two colonies of honeybees and I knew they were at risk for extinction. I figured we might want to get a honeybee expert out to collect them," Baskin said.

Once home, Westrich found the bees weighed 8 pounds, which is nearly 20,000 bees, according to the Air Force story.

It didn't take long for the bees to find a new home where there's a different kind of buzz.

Westrich took the colony to a local beer producer, where it will maintain the honeybee colony and use the honey for its production facility, according to the Air Force story.

Chief Master Sgt. Gregg Allen, a beekeeper who is the 192nd Maintenance Group quality assurance chief, said the honeybees likely came from a larger hive elsewhere on the 3,100-acre base.

"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," Allen said in the Air Force story.

Westrich told the Air Force the bees were likely on their way to build a new hive for their queen, who likely stopped to rest on the F-22. The Air Force said queen bees typically fly with eggs to lay at the new hive and don't eat for up to 10 days before leaving to start a new colony.

Because honeybees do not leave their queen, the Air Force said, they swarmed around the F-22 and eventually landed there.

Westrich, the beekeeper, "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," said Capt. Katie Chiarantona, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance officer.

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