By Elizabeth Preske
October 01, 2018
Credit: Paul Starosta/Getty Images

On Sept. 23, King Shaka International Airport in Durban, South Africa was buzzing with activity as a swarm of bees built a nest in an aircraft engine, delaying three flights.

According to News24 in South Africa, it took less than 25 minutes for the bees to settle into the Mango Airlines plane.

"This is incredibly rare. I have certainly never seen anything like this in my eight years in the aviation industry," said Mango Airlines spokesman Sergio dos Santos.

The low-budget airline called in beekeepers to help them safely remove the insects from their passenger airplane.

The process was "hectic," said Melvyn Dawson, a beekeeper from bee removal company A Bee C. "Ground control was frantic. They wanted us to do it as quickly as possible because of the flight being delayed."

Before they could begin transporting the bees, however, they had to obtain permits as mandated by aviation regulations. Typically, they would have smoked out the bees, but because the smoke would have damaged the plane, they used palm fronds to gather up the insects and remove them from the engine.

For now, the insects are being housed at Dawson's brother's home, reported News 24. They will later be sent to stay at macadamia farms and with other beekeepers.

Mike Miles, chairperson of the South African Bee Industry Association, believes the insects did not intend to remain in the engine for long. "Normally those places are greasy, smelly and hot and not at all ideal as a permanent home for bees," he told News24. "Bees prefer secluded wood cavities. This is very unusual."

Although Mango Airlines had never dealt with an infestation like this before, this is not the first time the black and yellow creatures have tried honeymooning on an aircraft before.

At Miami International Airport in March 2017, an American Airlines flight was detained for four hours when thousands of bees made their nest near the cargo hold area.

And in 2016, a US Air Force fight was grounded when approximately 20,000 bees were found clinging to its exhaust nozzle.

In both instances, beekeepers were called in for assistance.