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Bee Swarm Shuts Down Mott Street in Chinatown

By Patrick Hedlund | June 13, 2011 5:40pm | Updated on June 14, 2011 6:43am

By Patrick Hedlund and Michael Ventura

DNAinfo Staff

CHINATOWN — Thousands of bees swarmed a streetlight on a busy stretch of Mott Street Monday afternoon, forcing police to close down a section of the block while onlookers stopped to gawk at the spectacle.

The latest swarm — the third spotted in Manhattan in as many weeks — clung to a streetlight between Bayard and Pell streets, as a crowd gathered below to stare and snap pictures.

"Did someone put honey up there?" said Heather LeBron, 25, of the Bronx. "This is a warning for the end of the world. How did they get up there? If I see frogs, I'm running."

Her brother, Michael Velez, 18, visiting from Washington, D.C., said he was shocked to see the bees after having a premonition the night before.

"I had a dream that I was getting stung by bees," Velez said.

An NYPD beekeeper arrived at the scene about 5 p.m., using an FDNY ladder to reach the streetlight and scoop the swarm into a bucket.

He estimated the haul at about 5 pounds — or upwards of 15,000 bees.

"When I got up there, I was like, 'What the... '" said Officer Tony Planakis, who also responded to a recent swarm in Little Italy.

"It's bigger than I've ever had," he added. "It was huge."

Beekeepers said swarms typically occur in the spring when hives become overcrowded, forcing the queen and her workers to search for a new location.

An equally sizable swarm covered a mailbox on Grand Street in Little Italy two weeks ago, followed by another a few days later on a Washington Heights fire escape. A third batch swarmed a tree outside the posh Bulgari store in Midtown last week.

"It's busier than I ever remember," said Andrew Cote, of the New York City Beekeepers Association, who assisted Planakis at the scene and also helped corral the Bulgari swarm.

He said received a call about another swarm nearby on Hester Street earlier in the day, and thought the two could be related.

"I think this is the same hive," Cote said, noting he planned to bring the bees to his hive in Connecticut.

He attributed the uptick in swarms to an increased interest in urban beekeeping and novice practitioners taking poor care of their hives.