More than 15,000 honey bees swarmed a man’s car during his 10-minute stop at a local supermarket in New Mexico over the weekend, with an off-duty firefighter helping rescue the bees.

An unnamed shopper had left his car with one of the windows down in the parking lot of an Albertsons supermarket on Sunday in Las Cruces, N.M., according to a Facebook post from the Las Cruces Fire Department.

Fire officials said it was not until the man started driving away after buying his groceries that he noticed a swarm of bees gathered in his back seat.


After the man called 911, the fire department reached out to Jesse Johnson, a firefighter who is also a beekeeper in his spare time. 

Johnson, 37, told The New York Times in an interview Wednesday that he had just finished a family barbecue when he was contacted about the swarm of bees.

He quickly responded, telling the Times, “I’ll do anything to keep people from killing the bees.” 

The fire department said in its Facebook post that Johnson arrived at the supermarket parking lot equipped with a hive kit, lemongrass oil, gloves and a beekeeper’s jacket and veil. He was able to safely remove the bees from the man’s vehicle. 

The fire department included photos of Johnson using an empty hive box treated with the lemongrass oil to lure the bees out of the car. 

Fire officials said an estimated 15,000 bees were removed from the car and relocated to Johnson’s property, which the department said was outside city limits. 

While the fire department said removing swarms of bees is not a regular occurrence for fire officials, Johnson told the Times it is common for bee colonies to split in the spring and congregate with a queen to another location. 

Johnson added that the bees likely came from a nearby parapet, gutter system or home, and saw the man’s car as a temporary shelter as they travelled to a new location. 

“Luckily, when bees are swarming, they’re pretty docile,” he told the Times. “They don’t have a home to protect for a moment. It’s much more intimidating than it is dangerous.”

While no major injuries were reported, authorities said a supermarket security guard and at least one firefighter were stung.

Johnson noted, “One guy got stung on the lip, and we made fun of him the next morning.”