By Patrick Hedlund and Nicole Bode
LITTLE ITALY — A giant swarm of bees covered a mailbox on a Little Italy street corner Tuesday, closing down the sidewalk for hours and drawing dozens of curious onlookers.
Thousands of bees attached to the side of a mailbox at the corner of Mulberry and Grand Streets around noon Tuesday, forcing police to close off a portion of the sidewalk and keep an eye on things until the bees could be safely removed.
"It's like a movie scene. It's pretty cool." said Mike Costabile, 25, who works nearby and was out getting coffee when he noticed the swarm. "I kind of wish there were more."
The mailbox, located in front of the Italian-American Museum at 155 Mulberry Street, was hard to make out under the blanket of bees covering almost one entire side. The museum was closed at the time. It did not appear that anyone had been hurt by the swarm.
An NYPD-sanctioned beekeeper arrived about 3:30 p.m., working with another local beekeeper to carefully herd the thousands of bees into separate containers.
"This is one of the largest [swarms] I've seen," said Elie Miodownik, of the New York City Beekeepers Association, who estimated the swarm at about 15,000 bees.
He arrived at the scene wearing full beekeeping gear after getting a call about the incident, and joined the NYPD beekeeper in corralling the insects after locating the queen bee.
Once the queen was identified and removed, the two scooped thousands of bees off the mailbox to be brought to other hives in Queens.
"It's fun, I love getting swarmed," added Miodownik, 25. "I think it's the most fun part of beekeeping."
He explained that the incident likely occurred after a nearby beehive became too crowded and the queen and her worker bees decided to relocate. It's a common phenomenon this time of year, he noted.
"It means that there's a beehive within a couple blocks," he said, adding that somebody nearby is likely keeping a hive.
The beekeepers removed most of the insects by about 5 p.m., but left a man-made hive containing the queen next to the mailbox for the other bees to eventually make their way inside.
Police kept the corner closed off while the remaining bees buzzed overhead, but Miodownik said no one was in danger because the queen was gone and there was no honey for the bees to guard.
"They harmless because they're not protecting anything," he said.