Honeybees Crash Commencement

Worker bees follow queen to excellent seats

05.20.2012 By Art Jahnke

Boston University commencement 2012, honey bee swarmApproximately 5,000 honeybees followed their queen onto Nickerson Field less than an hour before BU’s 139th Commencement exercises began. Photo by Tom Daley

Roughly 5,000 unticketed guests swarmed onto Nickerson Field just 45 minutes before the scheduled start of BU’s 139th Commencement exercises, bringing with them the potential for minor havoc. Honeybees, following their queen to a new home just after noon on a sunny spring day, alighted on a plastic chair in a guest section of the field, just behind the area designated for graduates of the College of Communication.

Grounds crew, who spotted the growing ball of insects clinging to the underside of a plastic seat, knew just the man to call: Bill Murray. No, not the Bill Murray of Ghostbusters fame, but plumbing department manager Bill Murray, a backyard beekeeper and the advisor to BU’s Beekeepers Club.

Murray, who also happens to be one of the managers of Commencement setup and takedown, was nearby and understood immediately what was going on.

“They were honeybees,” he says. “They’re not aggressive. They’re just following their queen, who releases pheromones to lead them to a new hive. We think we spotted them yesterday down by the railroad tracks.”

Instead of taking immediate action, Murray waited, watching the increasing size of the ball of bees beneath the chair.

“You want to give all the bees a chance to catch up,” he says. “That way none of the bees are lost.”

Once the ball of insects stopped growing, Murray swung into action, albeit slowly. He calmly picked up the chair, gently placed it in a blue plastic trash barrel, and closed the lid. Commencement seating continued with barely a ripple of commotion.

The good news, says Murray, is that the visiting swarm will be turned over to the BU Beekeepers Club, which will give it a new home next to its existing hive on the banks of the Charles River.
Watch this video on YouTube

In the video above, beekeeper and plumbing department manager Bill Murray places the swarm of bees in a safe place. The bees will join other hives of the BU Beekeepers Club. Video by Kristin Henne. Photo by Tom Daley


This story originally appeared in BU Today on May 21, 2012.

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