(CNN) — A swarm of bees forced a Delta Air Lines plane to ground Wednesday, delaying a flight from Houston to Atlanta for about three hours.
“Believe it or not, Delta Flight 1682 from Houston-Bush to Atlanta was delayed yesterday afternoon after a friendly group of bees evidently wanted to speak to our aircraft wing, no doubt to share the latest on the flight conditions at the airport,” the airline said in an amusing statement after the images sparked conversation on social media.
Delta Air Lines did not say exactly what steps it took to resolve the situation, but ultimately the bees were displaced by pushing the plane backwards from the gate using ground equipment with no passengers on board.
The welfare of the bees and ensuring that the plane’s surfaces were not contaminated were factors in the delay.
Delta apologized to customers for the delayed flight.
Twitter user Anjali Enjeti live tweeted the incident from inside George Bush Intercontinental Airport, reporting various measures that were evidently considered and rejected to get the bees to fly away from the wing of the Airbus A320.
My flight leaving Houston is delayed because bees have congregated on the tip of one of the wings. They won’t let us board until they remove the bees. But how on earth will this happen? Won’t they leave the wing when we take off? pic.twitter.com/DhodBz0m5n
— Anjali Enjeti (she/her) (@AnjaliEnjeti) May 3, 2023
Enjeti mentions a beekeeper and pest control in his updates, apparently culled from Delta announcements and rumors commented on by other passengers. He also recounted how they jockeyed for positions at the airport ticket windows in hopes of witnessing a beekeeping operation, accompanied by appetizers for the show.
According to Enjeti, no beekeeper showed up, much to his disappointment.
“It would be a huge highlight of my life to see a beekeeper remove bees from the wing of an airplane. It’s going to be hard to pass up. The disappointment is real,” tweeted.
Enjeti did not immediately respond to CNN’s attempt to contact her.
Bees in airports
Bee swarms on airplanes are rare, but they have already happened. A swarm of bees delayed an Air India flight in 2019. In that case, water cannons were used to dislodge the bees from the aircraft that was supposed to cover the route from Kolkata to Agartala.
In 2016, an F-22 Raptor fighter jet was temporarily immobilized by 20,000 bees. A beekeeper helped solve that situation in Virginia.
In passenger airports, beekeepers are becoming more common.
A 2022 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine details a number of U.S. and international airports that have established “pollinator-friendly practices and programs that restore bee habitat and raise public awareness and appreciation for these fascinating insects.
According to the report, Germany’s Hamburg airport was the first to introduce an apiary in 1999. Chicago O’Hare was the first US airport to add a significant apiary.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is involved in investigations related to airport beekeeping programs.
The airport implicated in Wednesday’s bee-related delay hasn’t joined airport beekeeping efforts…yet.
“The possibility of implementing this initiative at the Bush airport facilities is being studied, but currently we do not have a beekeeping program at the airport,” airport spokesman Augusto Bernal told CNN by email.