Jennifer Keller never expected to respond to an A-P-Bee.
But it was all in a day’s work Tuesday when the agricultural research technician helped end a standoff between a Wake County deputy and thousands of bees.
Keller headed to the scene on U.S. Highway 64 after getting the call from her boss, Dr. David Tarpy, extension apiculturist.
“We found a police cruiser with thousands of bees crawling over the back of it,” said Keller, who teamed up with beekeeper Charles Heatherly on the rescue.
The deputy had stopped to check on a truck that broke down overnight while hauling boxes of bees to a new location. Although the bees stayed put overnight, they stirred in the daylight, surrounding the deputy, who took cover in his car.
Once the Bee Team arrived, they squirted the bees down with a little calming sugar water and began patiently scraping them from the car with a piece of plastic and placing them into an artificial hive for transfer.
“The bees were very gentle,” Keller said. “We started out working without protective gear but eventually put on veils because of the number of bees that were flying.”
That’s easy for Keller to say, since she manages 80 to 100 hives of bees for research and has worked with them for a decade, ever since her graduate school days at NC State.
Once most of the bees had been collected, the deputy drove away slowly, trailing bees in his wake. Heatherly took the hive home and Keller headed back to work, where the colonies she tends support research on honey bee genetics.
Keller is pleased that calls to collect bees have been on the rise, prompted by concern about colony collapse disorder, a topic NC State studies in collaboration with other universities’ researchers. Usually she helps by connecting callers with a beekeeper.
And that’s how she prefers it … although the fan mail from colleagues and friends who saw her on the news was nice.