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New York Police Takes Vacuumed-Up Bees Into Their Own Backyard

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Imagine it's the middle of the afternoon. You're in Times Square. You're hungry, so you stop at a hot dog stand to get a bite. All of a sudden, bees - thousands of them - descend upon your hot dog stand. That was the scene earlier this week on the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street in Manhattan. Thousands of bees blanketed the umbrella of a hot dog stand, that is until an NYPD officer showed up with a vacuum to safely collect the bees. Who is this hero, you may ask? Well, it turns out that the NYPD has two resident beekeepers on staff, one of whom is with us now from his home in New York. Officer Darren Mays, welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

DARREN MAYS: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So I understand it was your colleague who was dispatched to Times Square earlier this week to deal with that situation, but you've dealt with many similar ones if I have that right.

MAYS: Yes, correct.

MARTIN: So why do bees swarm on a hot dog stand and why - any idea of why that particular hot dog stand?

MAYS: No rhyme or reason. When they swarm, they'll pick any object just to land on. And that one, you know, it was colorful. That could have been the reason why. But as we've seen when swarms - when they do swarm and they decide to land, they will land on - even on a bicycle on the sidewalk. They'll land on a car. They'll land on even the side of a building. It just happened so when they swarmed, the queen - she's the bigger of them all and has shorter wings, so she's not able to fly as far as the rest of the swarm. So she'll pick a location within a block radius of where they swarmed from and decide to land. So I guess she was probably tired at some point from where she was coming from and saw the colorful umbrella of the hot dog stand and decided to land there.

MARTIN: It sounds like the queen and her stilettos, like she just ran out of gas, right? The heels were too high, and she had to take a seat. That's what it sounds like to me.

MAYS: (Laughter) Probably.

MARTIN: So how do you deal with a swarm like the one we saw last week? I mean, you mentioned that there was a vacuum used. That doesn't sound very good actually, but I read that this is actually the preferred method. This is actually safe for the bees?

MAYS: Yes because the vacuum system we use, you know, there are several types. Officer Lauriano and I have two different types, but they work the same way. And, you know, for - most people don't know they - you know, when we say we're using a vacuum, they think we're really using a good strong suction on them, but we're not because we're able to control the flow.

MARTIN: And then what happens to them after you scoop them up? Where do they go?

MAYS: We - if anyone, you know, claimed them that is theirs while we're on the scene, if that ever happens, you know, we would, you know, give them back to them, you know, take them back to wherever they would like for them to go. But that never happened before. No one ever claimed it. So we have to house them or give them a new home. And we'll take them to our place.

MARTIN: Oh, you have your own apiary at home and they are bunking with you now - with Officer Lauriano?

MAYS: Officer Lauriano had the one out of Times Square the other day. He took those with him.

MARTIN: OK. OK. How many bees do you have right now?

MAYS: If I was to count individual bees, I couldn't put a number on it. I would put it at least 500,000.

MARTIN: Well, what happens to all that honey?

MAYS: I share it with coworkers. Believe it or not, my coworkers love it. I share with them and family and, you know, relatives. You know, it's too much to keep and eat myself, but I definitely share with my coworkers. And they love it.

MARTIN: That's awesome. See, everybody knows what they're getting for Christmas. That's awesome. Well, Officer Darren Mays is a resident beekeeper with the New York City Police Department, and he was kind enough to join us from his home. Officer Mays, thank you so much for talking with us.

MAYS: All right. Thanks for having me. It's my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.