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The F-22 Stealth Fighter’s Greatest Enemy: A Swarm of Honey Bees?

Robert Kagan
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft refuels from a KC-10 Extender aircraft, not shown, after conducting airstrikes in Syria Sept. 23, 2014. The F-22 was part of a large coalition strike package that was the first to strike Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) targets in Syria. President Barack Obama authorized humanitarian aid deliveries to Iraq as well as targeted airstrikes to protect U.S. personnel from extremists known as ISIL. U.S. Central Command directed the operations. (DoD photo by Maj. Jefferson S. Heiland, U.S. Air National Guard/Released)

The F-22 Raptor is one of the Air Force’s most vaunted planes. It’s been around since the late 1990s, and while the last one was delivered in 2012, the F-22’s have shifted over time to the “eyes in the sky” for the Air Force.

Also, there was the time the Raptor shielded a large school of honey bees.

It happened in 2016, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, according to the DVIDS Hub website. One day that June, according to the account, the 192nd Fighter Wing Aircraft Maintainers discovered a swarm of honey bees hanging off of the exhaust nozzle of an F-22 jet.

They considered trying to get rid of the bees, but then realized they should not, since those particular bees are endangered.

“I was shocked like everyone else because it looked like a cloud of thousands of bees, but I knew they wouldn’t sting anyone and were just looking for a new place to live,” Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Baskin told the site. “My neighbor maintains two colonies of honey bees and I knew they were at risk for extinction, I figured we might want to get a honey bee expert out to collect them.”

Once the captain was made aware of the bees, it was determined that they needed to call in a local beekeeper, who happened to be retired from the Navy, and was located in Hampton, about twenty miles away. When the beekeeper, Andy Westrich, first saw the swarm, he called it the largest he’d ever seen, and later determined that the hive consisted of nearly twenty thousand bees.

“The honey bees most likely came from a much larger bee hive somewhere else on base,” Chief Master Sergeant Gregg Allen, 192nd Maintenance Group Quality Assurance chief and himself a beekeeper, told the site.

Experts speculated that the bees were looking for a new location to build a hive for their queen, and had probably stopped on the plane in order to rest. The bees were corralled off the jet into buckets, and Westrich later took them home. They ended up in the custody of a local beer producer.

“Beehives are constantly growing and they eventually become overcrowded. Around springtime, the bees will make a new queen, scout for a new location and take half of the hive with them to that location,” Allen told the site at the time.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

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