Bees are an important part of the ecosystem. They are valuable to wildflowers and crucial to agriculture. However, they’re not so welcome when a swarm of bees attaches itself to someone’s car. That’s the situation a Sevier County woman found when she was in downtown Knoxville.

Beekeepers say this is not out of the ordinary for downtown. This is the third swarm of bees in downtown Knoxville they’ve heard about this year and they say there are likely a few hives within a one to two-mile radius.

The car wash is never really a quiet place, but on Wednesday it had a different kind of buzz for Jennifer King. There were still two to three honeybees attached to her car. She decided not to wash her Mazda fearing more bees would be hiding under her wheel well.

King found her car covered in a swarm of bees on Tuesday. 

“My reaction, I probably can’t say on camera,” she told WATE 6 On Your Side.

King is the general manager at the Melting Pot in the Old City. During her shift on Tuesday, a friend came in.

“And goes, ‘Have you looked at your car lately?’ And I said, ‘Did someone hit it?’ And he said no. He shows me this picture and I couldn’t understand what it was,” said King.

Thousands of bees had swarmed on her back bumper, near the wheel and onto the trunk. King says they called in a beekeeper. 

“My first reaction was to blow my car up,” she said.

That didn’t happen. Instead, King says the beekeeper scooped 30,000 honeybees into a box. 

“So the queen bee went in there and they all started falling off. It took a couple hours to get them all off,” King said.

“This is actually swarm season because as the hives try and build up, they’ll realize they’re a little full and part of the hive will go,” said Lynda Rizzardi, president of the Knox County Beekeepers Association,

Rizzardi says there was likely some nectar or something sweet smelling on King’s car. 

“That attracted the scout bees and the others followed her,” she said.

Even after going home, visiting the car wash and driving back to work on Wednesday, about 12 honeybees flew to King’s car.

“They can buzz somewhere else,” she said.

Rizzardi says those bees were likely out foraging on Tuesday and they followed the queen’s scent on Wednesday. 

“To be honest, swarm is the easiest, gentlest bees to be around because they’ve just filled their stomachs to look for a new home. So they’re not very aggressive,” said Rizzardi.

The only thing still bugging King were white specks where the bees had been. 

“I have a new respect for honeybees big time. Big time now,” she said.

If a swarm happens to set up on your car or where you live, you can call the Knox County Beekeepers Association’s Swarm Removal Team at (865) 356-6033.

Beekeepers say typically a swarm will stay between two to 24 hours and sometimes a second day if it’s raining. But the swarm is looking for a new home and they’re wanting to move.

How can you help the honeybee? Beekeepers say by not spraying pesticides during the middle of the day because bees may mistake it for dew or water, bringing it back to the hive.

How you can help the bees, other pollinators 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service, bees are the most effective pollinators because they feed only on flowers. Flowers attract and reward bees for their pollination service, bees gather two kinds of foods from flowers – sugar-rich nectar to fuel their flight and protein-rich pollen, or “bee bread” to feed their young brood (baby bees larvae). 

The U.S. Forest Service recommends the following for keeping a pollinator-friendly garden:

  • Use a wide variety of plants that bloom from early spring to late fall (perennials, annuals & blooming fruit trees)
  • Avoid modern hybrid flowers, especially “doubled” flowers
  • Eliminate pesticides whenever possible
  • Include larval host plants in your landscape
  • Create a damp salt lick for butterflies and bees 
  • Spare the limbs, or build a bee condo for nesting
  • Add nectar sources like 4-parts-water with 1-part-sugar; never use artificial sweeteners or fruit juices
  • Add an easy (for takeoffs & landings) water source for them in your yard

For more information about how to plant a bee garden, click here.