On September 23, in Durban, the third most populous city in South Africa, a swarm of bees decided to set up shop in the engine of a Mango Airlines plane, causing flight delays at one of the nation’s busiest airports. Bee experts had to be called in to remove the estimated 20,000 bees from the starboard engine of the new generation Boeing 737-800.

Scientists believe the bees may have been resting before heading off since it is unlikely they would make a hive in the dirty engine. The bees, however, wasted no time moving in. In less than half an hour, they had invaded the engine, delaying three passenger flights at King Shaka International Airport.


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

Though it took the removal team from the privately owned A Bee C company a while to clear security to get on the tarmac, they were able to quickly evict the swam. “We have encountered some unusual bee removals, but this was a first for me," said A Bee C's Melvyn Dawson.

The bees were transported to Dawson’s brother’s home since he is a beekeeper. They were expected to be taken to farms. Mike Miles, the chairman of the South African Bee Industry Association, added that the engine was an unlikely place for the bees to rest. "Normally those places are greasy, smelly and hot and not at all ideal as a permanent home for bees. Bees prefer secluded wood cavities. This is very unusual," he said.

This, however, is not the first time bees have boarded an aircraft. In March 2017, at Miami International Airport, an American Airlines flight was grounded for four hours after thousands of bees settled into the cargo hold area, and in 2016, a US Air Force fight was stranded after approximately 20,000 bees were discovered clinging to the plane’s exhaust nozzle. Both times, beekeepers were called in to remove the bees.

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Mango Airlines is a state-owned South African low-cost airline based at OR Tambo International Airport near Johannesburg and a subsidiary of South African Airways. Launched in 2006, Mango joined Star Alliance as a Connecting Partner in the third quarter of 2016. The airline provides an in-flight magazine, Mango Juice, a well as, Mango TV, a daily in-flight entertainment system, and in-flight Wi-Fi. Mango, however, does not accommodate bee travelers.