Swarm of giant honey bees cause chaos at Thailand airport

Photo via Khon Kaen Airport

A swarm of giant honey bees caused quite the buzz at Khon Kaen Airport in northeast Thailand yesterday, causing delays to two flights and stinging six members of ground staff who all required hospitalisation.

As soon as Thai AirAsia flight FD3260 from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport landed on the runway at Khon Kaen Airport yesterday, a colony of giant honey bees (Apis dorsata) swarmed the turbofan on the plane’s right-hand exterior.

Luckily, passengers could disembark from the aircraft via a detachable jet bridge. However, their luggage couldn’t be unloaded due to the thousands of bees buzzing about the aircraft’s underbelly.

Director of Khon Kaen Airport Sommai Chainat ordered staff to spray water at the bees and use an airport crash tender truck to blow air into the aircraft’s exhaust pipe in an attempt to drive the swarm out of the plane.

The tactic worked and the giant honey bees left Thai AirAsia’s aircraft and disappeared, allowing flight FD3261 back to Don Mueang to depart – 30 minutes later than scheduled.

But when Thai Smile Airways flight WE044 from Suvarnabhumi Airport landed on Khon Kaen Airport’s runway, the swarm returned. As the aircraft taxiied into Parking Bay 2, half the bees congregated beneath the jet bridge while the other half swarmed the aircraft’s right-hand turbofan, again.

Again, passengers could disembark from the plane via the jet bridge but their luggage couldn’t be unloaded. The ground staff used the same tactics to drive out the bees, delaying flight WE045 back to Suvarnabhumi Airport by 40 minutes. The bees calmed down after that and didn’t disturb any more flights yesterday afternoon.

This is the first time such an event has happened at Khon Kaen Airport. Giant honey bees migrate seasonally, sometimes travelling up to 200 kilometres. The bees need their “rest stops,” so it’s possible that the bees were trying to find somewhere to take a break. Or, if a giant honey bee hive is destroyed or damaged during a storm, the colony is forced to evacuate.

Six members of ground staff at Khon Kaen Airport were stung yesterday and all required hospitalisation. Giant honey bees in Thailand are about 1 – 1.5 centimetres long and even one sting can be dangerous – or even fatal if the victim is allergic to the bee’s venom. Cornell University apiculturist Roger Morse called Thailand’s giant honey bees “the most dangerous stinging insects on earth.”

In June last year, a swarm of giant honey bees swarmed a house in Krabi, southern Thailand, for hours. Luckily, no one was seriously injured.

Northern Thailand News


Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

Related Articles