Woman Pleads Not Guilty to Unleashing Bees on Sheriff’s Deputies

massachusetts woman allegedly released bee swarm on officers

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Massachusetts law enforcement faced a bee attack on October 12. A woman was charged with releasing the bees as officers tried to serve an eviction. Bees are kept with so-called “Langstroth hives.”

Langstroth hive for bee keeping in grassy field
Shown is a Langstroth hive constructed to be a vertically modular beehive with vertically hung frames and a bottom board where bees enter and exist the hive. Photo by Sobolevskyi_Vadym / Shutterstock

Sheriff’s deputies in Hampden County, Massachusetts, were met with an unpleasant surprise as they tried to serve an eviction notice on October 12: They were attacked by a swarm of bees. A police report said a woman arrived in an SUV towing a trailer containing bee hives. The woman allegedly donned a beekeeper’s outfit, shook the hives, and removed one of their lids, causing hundreds of bees to attack the deputies, ignoring several deputies’ warnings that they were allergic to bee stings.

The woman was charged but pleaded not guilty at her arraignment later that day.

Beekeeping is a dangerous and involved practice. In his video series Pioneering Skills for Everyone: Modern Homesteading, Dr. Greg Pryor, Professor of Biology at Marion University, detailed the hive boxes and tools needed for the job.

Keeping the Bees

“Older style beehives, or skeps, were made from woven plant fibers,” Dr. Pryor said. “Although skeps are iconic, they are generally not used today, because harvesting honey from skeps involves killing or driving the bees out of those basket-like hives. Modular beehives […] are called Langstroth hives; they don’t require killing or disturbing the bees.”

According to Dr. Pryor, were created in the 1800s by Reverend Lorenzo Langstroth and have been used ever since. They feature vertically hung frames in a box that allows for frequent inspection and honey harvest without harming the bees inside. They consist of a box, which is called a hive body; a lid; a top cover; and a base underneath the hive body. They can be made of wood or polystyrene and can either be made by hand or bought pre-made.

“Whichever style you choose, you should paint the exterior of the hive in white or a light color to reflect sunlight and protect it from the elements,” he said. “The base, underneath your hive body, should be ventilated, and the entire hive should be elevated off the ground. Inside the hive body will be 10 frames, hung vertically like the files in a file cabinet; they have a foundation on which the bees will draw out a honeycomb.”

All the Tools You’ll Need

Even to get this far, Dr. Pryor says that amateur beekeepers will need several items. First, some kind of support to keep the hive body off the ground is necessary, whether it be cinder blocks or a table-like structure. Next, the foundation in each frame should be a thin sheet of wax or plastic suspended in the frame. Beekeepers also need a smoker, which is a metal container that holds a flammable material, like crumpled newspaper, which beekeepers then ignite, releasing smoke through a nozzle.

“Smoke helps to relax the bees,” Dr. Pryor said. “Actually, it repels the bees off of the lid when you open the hive and stimulates the other bees inside the hive to cluster on the frames and fill themselves up with honey. It’s thought that the bees are responding to the smoke of an incoming wildfire and are preparing to vacate the hive, if necessary.”

The two most obvious items on a beekeeper’s list of must-haves are a beekeeping suit and bees. Dr. Pryor recommends a “full, coverall-like suit” with a zippered, attached hood to protect from stings. As for bees, new beekeepers can often find local beekeepers to sell them bees or buy them online.

Finally, beekeepers also employ a bee brush, to gently sweep away bees on their suits; and a hive tool, which resembles a windshield wiper squeegee and is used both to handle the frames and scrape wax from the hive.

Just don’t use your bees to intimidate law enforcement.

Pioneering Skills for Everyone: Modern Homesteading is now available to stream on Wondrium.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily