A dad came out of a shopping center in Oxford, England, recently to find a surprise waiting for him and his young family — a swarm of bees besieging his car. But what he did to get rid of the insects has some people, particularly beekeepers, upset.
Leon Hines, his pregnant wife, and 3-year-old little girl were doing some shopping at a strip mall called Cowley Retail Park in Oxford. When Hines, an emergency services worker, and his family returned to their Audi A5 convertible, they saw hundreds — maybe thousands of honeybees — crawling all over the parked vehicle, and fascinated passers-by stopping to snap photos. From a safe distance, presumably.
“I just thought ‘oh my God, what is this?’” said Hines, who at first had no idea why a group of spectators seemed interested in his car. “I noticed people taking pictures, but I didn’t see the bees at first because they were at the back.”
And then he saw the surprise. Bees. Why they were attracted to Hines convertible and no other cars in the shopping center parking lot is not clear. But all Hines was thinking about was keeping his family safe.
“I was with my wife Aimee who’s eight months pregnant and my three-year-old daughter Aaliyah so I didn’t want them to get stung,” the 31-year-old dad told The Oxford Mail newspaper.
Somehow, Hines was able to get into the car without suffering a bee sting himself. “I got in the driver’s side where there were less bees and drove really slowly when I was near pedestrians.”
The above photo shows the car covered with bees. The driver’s side in the photo — which of course is on the right in the U.K. — is not visible, however. Bees appear to be covering the passenger’s side of the Audi.
Hines then took his car for a drive.
“I went to the bypass and drove really fast to try and get rid of them, but they stuck to the car,” Hines recounted. “I ended up having to go through the Tesco car wash twice to kill them.”
But was Hines’ solution simply a thoughtless exercise in animal cruelty? A local beekeeper says there was a better way, and by running the car through a car wash, Hines in effect destroyed an entire civilization — and the bees were probably harmless anyway.
“Honey bees swarm when they’re trying to find a location to stay. Before they left their old nest they will have gorged themselves on honey so they will have been totally docile,” said Phil Sharman of the Oxfordshire Beekeeper’s Association. “He will have drowned their Queen, which is the center of their universe.”
Bees already have a tough time. In the UK there are now only 25 native species, half of the number that existed six decades ago.