It had been a seemingly ordinary trip to an Albertson’s grocery store in southern New Mexico.

A man carried his shopping bags outside, loaded his bread and other items into the back seat of his Buick and started to drive away.

And that’s when he saw it — a mass of some 15,000 buzzing bees hanging from one of his rear windows.

Officials with the Las Cruces Fire Department, which provided the account, said firefighters responded to the scene late Sunday afternoon to find “a swarm of bees inside the vehicle.” Jesse Johnson, an off-duty firefighter who is also a beekeeper, arrived in a traditional white jacket and veiled hat and expertly removed the bees, relocating them to his property, according to a statement from the fire department.

“I’ll do anything to keep people from killing the bees,” he told the New York Times.

Photos from the fire department show hundreds of bees swarming around the car as Johnson loaded them into beehive boxes.

“Luckily, when bees are swarming, they’re pretty docile,” Johnson told the Times. “They don’t have a home to protect for a moment. It’s much more intimidating than it is dangerous.”

Johnson could not immediately be reached by The Washington Post.

Honey bee experts say incidents such as this one are not that uncommon this time of year. During “swarm season,” crowded colonies often split as a means of reproduction — with the old queen and about half of her worker bees leaving the hive in search of a new home. Johnson told the Times that he suspected that the swarm might have come from a hive in a nearby parapet, a gutter or a house.

While in transit, the swarm will land on something nearby like a tree branch, a fence post or even a grocery shopper’s car, while the scout bees venture out and search for a spot for a new nest, said Jamie Ellis, a professor in the Entomology and Nematology Department at the University of Florida.

When the scout bees find the ideal place, the cluster lets go and flies to it to build a new home, he said.

“When a colony splits, it can be a pretty intimidating-looking thing to someone who is not a beekeeper,” he told The Washington Post.

Experts say it is highly unlikely that the bees in this case chose the car as their new nest site, but were simply clustering there for a bit, making it more of a campsite. If the bees had been left alone, they would probably have relocated on their own within a few hours or days, the experts said.

But, they acknowledged, it’s not always possible to let nature take its course.

Officials with the Las Cruces Fire Department said, “to mitigate the midafternoon hazard the large swarm presented in a relatively high-traffic area, firefighters determined the best remedy was to have the swarm removed and relocated swiftly.”

Authorities secured the area while Johnson removed the cluster of bees, the statement read.

Officials said an Albertson’s security guard was stung in the process but no major injuries were reported.


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