WATCH: King Shaka airport a hive of activity as bees ground plane

Melvyn Dawson and his assistant removing around 20 000 bees from a Mango aircraft engine.
Melvyn Dawson and his assistant removing around 20 000 bees from a Mango aircraft engine.

The King Shaka International Airport in Durban was abuzz with flying creatures of a different kind after a swarm of bees moved into an aircraft engine on Sunday.

According to Mango spokesperson Sergio dos Santos, the bees populated the engine of one of its passenger airplanes in less than 25 minutes.

The ground crew reported the hive of activity and beekeepers were summoned to relocate the insects.

It resulted in three flights being delayed, said Dos Santos.

"This is incredibly rare," Dos Santos told News24. "I have certainly never seen anything like this in my eight years in the aviation industry."

On Wednesday, Mango tweeted a picture of the beekeepers at work.

"Two beekeepers were called into remove a swarm of bees that had started building a nest in the engine of one of our aircrafts in Durban on Sunday. This unfortunately meant delays on three of our scheduled flights. The bees were safely removed," the airline tweeted.

Dos Santos said this was the first time a Mango flight had to be delayed because of bees.

Melvyn Dawson, from bee removal company A Bee C, who was called to remove the bees from the engine, told News24 it was "hectic".

Apart from it being a highly unusual removal, Dawson said aviation regulations had delayed the process and permits had to be obtained before his team was allowed near the aircraft. Dawson and his assistant could also not use their own equipment such as a ladder and smoker, as these could have damaged the plane and engine.

"Ground control was frantic. They wanted us to do it as quickly as possible because of the flight being delayed," said Dawson.

But once at the plane, it was a "quick job", Dawson said. He estimated that the swarm consisted of 20 000 bees.

"We have encountered some unusual bee removals, but this was a first for me."

According to Dawson, bees are swarming at this time of year and that the critters were likely in transit.

'This is very unusual'

The bees were relocated to Dawson’s brother Gavin's home, from where they will eventually be taken to macadamia farms or other beekeepers. Gavin is also a bee removal specialist.

Mike Miles, chairperson of the South African Bee Industry Association, told News24 it was "highly unlikely" that the bees had planned to make the aircraft their home.

"Normally those places are greasy, smelly and hot and not at all ideal as a permanent home for bees."

Miles said that the bees were probably resting on their way somewhere else.

"Bees prefer secluded wood cavities. This is very unusual," Miles said.

Last week, a colony of bees relocated its hive onto the tyre and wheel arch of a Ford vehicle at the Paul Maher Ford branch in Beyers Naude Drive, Johannesburg.

The vehicle was on display outside the showroom.

The colony of between 10 000 and 15 000 bees was relocated by bee removal specialists.

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