(NEXSTAR) — Anyone who has ever flown knows it’s not uncommon for flights to be delayed. It could be for any number of reasons – weather, waiting for flight crews to arrive from other delayed flights, maintenance, and, in extreme cases, security breaches are just a few.
For passengers hoping to board a flight from Houston to Atlanta on Wednesday, it was a different type of delay: bees on a wing.
Twitter user Anjali Enjeti shared a photo of a group of bees that had congregated on a wingtip. She noted crews wouldn’t let passengers board until the swarm was removed.
In one photo shared with Nexstar, seen below, the swarm can be seen covering the upper half of the wingtip, entirely concealing the blue color of the piece.
Enjeti explained in a Twitter thread that crews hoped to bring in a beekeeper but, according to the flight’s captain, they wouldn’t be allowed to touch the airplane. For similar reasons, the plane couldn’t be sprayed by pest control and a hose wasn’t available to spray them off.
The captain then told passengers he was “going to taxi the plane and hope the bees leave,” Enjeti wrote.
After the flight crew deplaned, ground equipment was used to push the plane back. At that point, the bees finally left the wing.
Delta confirmed the rare – but not unheard of – occurrence to Nexstar in a statement, saying, “Bee-lieve it or not, Delta flight 1682 from Houston-Bush to Atlanta took a delay this afternoon after a friendly group of bees evidently wanted to talk shop with the winglet of our airplanes, no doubt to share the latest about flying conditions at the airport.”
Overall, the flight was delayed about three hours before completing its flight to Atlanta.
In 2016, a swarm of honey bees grounded a US Air Force fighter jet. Crew members at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia noticed nearly 20,000 bees on the exhaust nozzle of a F-22 Raptor after flight operations. Beekeeper and retired US Navy veteran Andy Westrich was able to collect the bees with vacuum hoses and safely relocate the colony.
A 2019 Southwest flight out of California’s John Wayne Airport was delayed by a swarm of bees on a wing. Unlike Wednesday’s flight out of Houston, the plane delay lasted only about 35 minutes.
Honey bees swarm when looking to set up a new hive, according to Michigan State University Extension’s Department of Entomology. Before settling on its final destination, the swarm will gather close to the hive and can stay in that location for “a couple hours to several days.”
The swarm will eventually leave after scout bees have decided on a permanent home for the hive.