Losses and Aviation Safety

That time an F-22 Raptor Provided Refuge for 20,000 Honey Bees

On Jun. 11, 2016 192nd Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers were bemused when they found a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine following flight operations at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

192nd Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers were bemused when they found a swarm of honey bees hanging from the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine following flight operations at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia on Jun. 11, 2016.

As told by Airman 1st Class Johnisa Roberts, 192nd Wing, in the article F-22 Raptor provides refuge for honey bees, initially, everyone’s reaction was to run and find someone who could “get rid” of the bees, but Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Baskin, 192nd Maintenance Squadron crew chief, knew that these honey bees were too important to exterminate.

“I was shocked like everyone else because it looked like a cloud of thousands of bees, but I knew they wouldn’t sting anyone and were just looking for a new place to live,” said Baskin. “My neighbor maintains two colonies of honey bees and I knew they were at risk for extinction, I figured we might want to get a honey bee expert out to collect them.”

Maintainers notified Capt. Katie Chiarantona, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Officer about the honey bee swarm. Since this had never happened on the flight line before, Chiarantona initially called the on-base entomologist to assess the situation. The entomologist immediately knew that he did not have the means to relocate the bees, so he referred Chiarantona to a local honey bee keeper in Hampton, Virginia.

Andy Westrich, U.S. Navy retired and local bee keeper, arrived on base with the needed materials and supplies. According to Chiarantona, Westrich said the swarm was one of the largest he had ever seen. He was escorted to the aircraft and used vacuum hoses to safely corral the honey bees off of the aircraft into large buckets. He then took the bee’s home and found that, as a hive, they weighed eight pounds which calculates to almost 20,000 bees!

“The honey bees most likely came from a much larger bee hive somewhere else on base,” said Chief Master Sergeant Gregg Allen, 192nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance chief, who also happens to be a bee keeper. “Bee hives are constantly growing and they eventually become overcrowded. Around springtime, the bees will make a new queen, scout for a new location and take half of the hive with them to that location.”

Westrich suspected that the swarm of bees were on their way to a new location to build a hive for their queen. Queen bees typically fly with eggs to lay at the new hive and do not eat for up to 10 days before leaving to start a new colony. As a result, the queen is often malnourished for the journey. Westrich believes she landed on the F-22 to rest. Honey bees do not leave the queen, so they swarmed around the F-22 and eventually landed there.

Lt. Col. Catherine M. Jumper, 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, presents Andy Westrich, U.S. Navy retired and local honey bee keeper, with a coin on Jun. 11, 2016 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Westrich was called to save and relocate a swarm of honey bees that landed on the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 Raptor engine.

According to Chiarantona “[Westrich] said that one out of two things could have happened, the queen would have rested and gained energy and the swarm would’ve left in the morning, or they would have decided that the jet engine would be a great place to build a hive.”

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-22A Raptor 192nd Fighter Wing, 149th Fighter Squadron, FF/04-4082 – Langley AFB, VA – 2014

Westrich was able to safely relocate the colony to a local beer producer where they will maintain the honey bee colony and use the honey for their production facility.

“Every bee is important to our food source; lots of things would die without bees,” said Baskin. “Most of our crops depend on bees, and our bees need to pollinate. This is why I knew we needed to save them instead of [exterminate] them.”

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

Recent Posts

The story of the USAF General who killed the SR-71 program because he was turned down to fly the Blackbird

The Blackbird The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” is a long-range, advanced, strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed… Read More

19 hours ago

South Korea unveils three new variants for KF-21 Boramae fighter

Three new variants for KF-21 Boramae fighter As noted by Alert 5 website, Bizhankook reports… Read More

2 days ago

Epic photos show some of the C-47/DC-3 aircraft that took part in the 80th D-Day Anniversary at “Daks over LFA”

The C-47/DC-3 aircraft that took part in the 80th D-Day Anniversary The awesome photos in… Read More

3 days ago