SmythsInPNG's Weblog

June 21, 2009

June 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — smythsinpng @ 8:04 am

Here in the Land of the Unexpected life is rarely dull. One surprise encounter this past week was with bees.

Two families from the Akolet tribe had finished their two week introduction to assisting with Bible translation and were ready to go home by airplane.  As I began my preflight inspection of the aircraft, the men began talking excitedly and brought my attention to some bees.

Here in the tropics insects flying around the aircraft are routine. The bright red paint of the aircraft attracts beautiful butterflies and “mud-dauber” hornets like to build their dirt nests in the aircraft’s many holes around hinges and air vents. But this was unusual.  I could hardly believe what I was seeing!  A large mass of bees was attached to the leading edge of the left wingtip fuel tank.  The swarm was about six inches wide, four inches thick and nine inches long. You will please excuse me if I didn’t actually measure the swarm!



I appreciated the warning from these men because my normal preflight inspection routine might have brought my hand or my nose within a threatening distance of the swarm before my mind comprehended the peril. 

Now what shall we do?  The Akolet men suggested that we just get in the airplane and fly. The wind stream would blow the bees away and we would suffer no harm. The thought was tempting but prudence prevented it.  If the clump was actually a nest instead of a swarm of bees, would it fall off or remain and affect the wing aerodynamics?  What if the bees were also in other hidden parts of the aircraft?  I needed to inspect the entire airplane before flight.  I didn’t know if the bees might actually swarm the aircraft cabin when disturbed and I certainly didn’t want to be trapped in a tiny aircraft cockpit along with one or two hundred bees.


Bee Swarm

Bee Swarm

The day before we had flown to a muddy airstrip and the aircraft had a thin cover of mud on one side.  I was planning to wash the airplane after the flight anyway.  Perhaps I could wash the bees off with a pressure washer, I thought.

We pulled the aircraft out of the hangar.  I was hoping that the hot sun would encourage the bees to move elsewhere. They stayed.  I laid out the power washer, hoses and power cords, then checked the fuel, water, oil and started up the electrical generator. I sprayed a heavy mist of water around me then pointed the wand of the pressure washer directly at the swarm. Sure enough! Wave after wave of bees made a bee line for me!  I was able spray them with water as they approached.  The swarm on the wing persisted. I got closer.  About half of the bees now moved to the propeller and the rest came after ME!  The mist of water around me as I waved the wand wildly at the oncoming bees seemed to affect their navigation and I escaped their malicious intentions.  Most of them returned to the propeller. The rest moved to the leading edge of the RIGHT wing tip tank.  This is not working! Time for another course of action!

Nest or Swarm?

Nest or Swarm?

I hopped in the van and drove the mile back to the Tribal Supply pantry. I bought two cans of bug spray and returned. So armed, I returned to my assault on the two swarms of bees clumped together on the propeller and the right wing. With one can I sprayed the swarm and with the other (or both!) I defended myself against the armed forces. Eventually the bees departed.  I continued washing the airplane with the pressure washer, checking every opening for more bees and beating back the few bees that persisted in their attempt to return.

Akolet Assistants

Akolet Assistants

I completed the preflight inspection, loaded the aircraft with cargo and passengers and departed with only an hour and a half delay. 

No bee stings!  Praise the Lord!



  1. Hey Randy,

    Did you skip class the day they did training on bees in flight school? 🙂 You need to be farmer, paramedic, counselor,preacher, exterminator and Oh by the way maintain and fly the plane. God bless you.

    Comment by carol farnham — June 21, 2009 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

  2. Sounds like you had a very buzzy day! Enjoyed catching up a bit. Thanks. Love and prayers. Mom

    Comment by Beth Smyth — June 23, 2009 @ 2:21 am | Reply

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