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Here’s why those bees were at the Yankees/Red Sox game

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Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2014 at 07:33 PM

TAMPA — The bees of summer are swarming.

That explains the interruption of the New York Yankees spring training game against the Boston Red Sox in Tampa on Tuesday afternoon, when a massive cloud of bees converged in left field during the third inning.

The good news is the bees likely were honey bees and posed no real danger to the public.

The bad news is that the grounds crew sprayed the swarm with bug spray in an attempt to move them on their way, and that may have spelled doom for the colony.

“Without seeing the bees myself, I’m not sure what was there at the ballgame,” said James Ellis, a researcher with the University of Florida’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab in Gainesville.

“But, yes, it is honey bee swarm season.”

Swarms of honey bees are a common sight this time of year, said Malcolm Sanford with the Florida State Beekeeper’s Association.

“Bees are swarming,” he said. “You can see swarms hanging in trees, on fence posts and even on back-yard barbecue grills; and in this case, a baseball diamond.”

Ellis said said honey bees are social insects and typically exist in a hive that, when it gets too big for its resources, splits in two.

“Their goal is not to become the strongest colony on the planet,” he said. “Their goal is to make it into two colonies.’’

That happens when a colony grows to a certain size and the old queen and about a third to two-thirds of the bees leave the hive in a swarm.

“The queen and the bees fly and land on a tree limb or a post and sit there in a cluster the size of a basketball,” Ellis said. “The colony sends out scout bees from that cluster and they look for a hole, like a tree hollow or a chimney, in which to move. Then, they all fly to that location.”

He said the swarm at the stadium was in transition. It was likely moving from the hive to a cluster, or from a cluster to a new home, and would have cleared out within about 10 minutes, even if nothing was done.

“If it’s a honey bee swarm,” he said, “It’s not in attack formation. It’s going to a new home and it had nothing to protect so it was extremely docile.”

Umpires at the game called for the grounds crew, which went to left field and sprayed bug spray at the amorphous cloud of bees, breaking them up, sending some on their way and others likely to their end, Ellis said.

“Those bees, if they were swarming in transit, would have gone away on their own,” he said. “The grounds crew could have done nothing and the situation would have solved itself in about 10 minutes.”

The bees delayed the game for seven minutes. There were no reports of anyone being stung.

“Just a strange little delay of game,” said Boston left fielder Mike Carp, who walked toward the infield to get away from the bees. “They kept coming towards me and I wanted no part of that. I didn’t want a couple thousand bees on me.”

Carp clearly could hear the bees buzzing.

“I guess they were honey bees, so it wasn’t anything that was too dangerous,” he said, “but nevertheless, it’s still shocking to see a swarm of bees flying around you in the middle of a baseball game.”

Sanford, with the beekeepers association, said scattering the swarm with bug spray may spell doom for that colony.

“When the swarm is disturbed, those bees are scattered,” he said. “They probably are not going to re-form.”

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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