Going above and bee-yond: Off duty firefighter removes swarm from car - Albuquerque Journal

Going above and bee-yond: Off duty firefighter removes swarm from car

Off-duty firefighter and beekeeper Jesse Johnson suited up Sunday to remove a swarm of bees from a car. (Courtesy LCFD Lt. Jason Floyd)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Jesse Johnson was off duty and at the tail end of a barbecue for his dad’s 67th birthday Sunday when he was called into action.

The Las Cruces firefighter grabbed his gear, suited up and headed into town – not to extinguish a blaze, but to remove a swarm of bees that had invaded a car while a man shopped at an Albertsons grocery store.

Johnson, a hobby beekeeper who has been with the fire department for 10 years, estimates the swarm he removed from the car weighed 3.5 pounds – about 15,000 bees. The hive is now the newest addition to his own collection.

Firefighter Jesse Johnson estimates the swarm he removed from a car parked at Albertsons weighed 3.5 pounds — about 15,000 bees. The bees took up residence in the car after the driver left a window down as he grocery shopped. Johnson, a hobby beekeeper has added the bees to his own hives. (Courtesy LCFD Lt. Jason Floyd)

At around 4 p.m., firefighters were called to the store in Las Cruces because a driver who had left a window down while shopping returned to find inside of the car abuzz.

The driver had actually borrowed the car from a friend and Johnson said he was worried about returning it. The driver watched the proceedings nervously.

“He was definitely freaked out …” Johnson said. “He took off a couple of rows down away from us, but he was also kind of laughing too, like ‘How did this even happen to me?’ ”

Johnson, 37, said he began beekeeping with his dad when he was a child and resumed the hobby in his late 20s once he had a home and enough land. He harvests the honey and gives away the beeswax to friends and family who want to make candles, explaining its not a business, “it’s just something I enjoy doing – help the bees out a bit.”

Johnson said Sunday’s swarm happened after a nearby colony split in two. He said a queen bee must have flown into the car and the rest of the hive clustered around to protect her while scouts were sent to suss out a new home.

“The bees, really they’re docile when they’re in a swarm like that because they’re not protecting a space,” he said. “Obviously, they’re protecting the queen, but they’re not going to really try to leave her and attack anything. They weren’t trying to sting at all.”

bright spotOnce he arrived at the scene, Johnson donned his beekeeper mask and gloves – his running shoes and blue dickies a far cry from his typical work togs – and got out a makeshift hive made from an empty box with some mesh. He put some lemongrass oil in the box to mimic the scent of a queen bee.

“I just set the hive in there on the seat,” he said. “I just took my hands and I grabbed as much of the ball of bees as I could … If you get the queen in the box, they’re for sure all going to get in the box. They’re going to find her, they’re going to smell her, they’re going to want to protect her.”

The process took maybe 40 minutes, he said. Johnson said that, most likely, the swarm would have moved on by itself, although it could have taken until nightfall.

Fire department spokesman Dan Trujillo said crews were on scene for nearly two hours and a security guard at the store was stung. Otherwise, “it is possible a few patrons may have had close encounters, but no major injuries were reported.”

“The Las Cruces Fire Department does not regularly remove bee swarms,” Trujillo said. “However, the large swarm presented in a relatively high-traffic area, so firefighters determined the best remedy was to have the swarm removed and relocated swiftly.”

As for the bees, Johnson said he started a new hive box for them and they’re adjusting to their new home.

“I fed them and I’ll check on them every few days, and they should be fine after that,” he said.

Off-duty firefighter and beekeeper Jesse Johnson suited up Sunday to remove a swarm of bees from a car. (Courtesy LCFD Lt. Jason Floyd)

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Going above and bee-yond: Off duty firefighter removes swarm from car


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Court records: Murder suspect works for DEA
ABQnews Seeker
Man charged in shooting death was ... Man charged in shooting death was confidential informant for federal agency
2
NM abortion clinic fields calls from Texas; schedules 'about ...
ABQnews Seeker
New spotlight makes them wary of ... New spotlight makes them wary of the longevity of the state's new role as a haven for abortion care
3
Court records show murder suspect worked for DEA
ABQnews Seeker
Man charged in shooting death was ... Man charged in shooting death was confidential informant for federal agency
4
City sponsors Friday nights for teens
ABQnews Seeker
Each event is geared for kids ... Each event is geared for kids age 12 to 19
5
APD seeks help identifying teen girls killed
ABQnews Seeker
Two young women die in suspicious ... Two young women die in suspicious crash near Central and Tingley
6
California man sentenced to 11½ years
ABQnews Seeker
Fatal shooting occurred after night of ... Fatal shooting occurred after night of drinking
7
Floods prompt evacuation warning near burn scar
ABQnews Seeker
Deluge hits areas near previous Calf ... Deluge hits areas near previous Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire path
8
County appoints interim MDC chief
ABQnews Seeker
Otero Gonzales has 25 years' experience ... Otero Gonzales has 25 years' experience in the corrections field
9
Governor asks Biden to help protect women
ABQnews Seeker
Lujan Grisham said New Mexico would ... Lujan Grisham said New Mexico would be a 'brick wall' against attempts to restrict abortion access