This Van in Cambridge Is Full of Bees, but Don’t Worry: It’s Fine

A beekeeper explains what's going on in an, ahem, buzzy video.

bees van

Photos via Getty Images

They may be among the most critical (and endangered) creatures on earth, but that doesn’t make it any less unsettling to see them like…. this.

A commuter making their way down the Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge this week spotted what appeared to be hundreds of bees buzzing around the interior of a white van, marked Best Bees, and clinging to its rear window. “I think you spilled your bees,” reads the caption on the now-viral clip, which had been shared tens of thousands of times on Reddit by Wednesday morning.

Again, everybody seems to be on board with the mighty and imperiled insect, without which our ecosystem and agriculture industry would descend into chaos. But out of context this just looks like a big ass van full of bees. Which naturally raised some questions and some jokes about the unusual sight.

“Isn’t it illegal to drive buzzed?” one person asked in the now wildly popular Reddit thread. Another commenter shared a Youtube video of Chris Farley and David Spade in Tommy Boy pretending to be accosted by the insects. “What you’re not understanding is that it’s a business owned and operated by bees. You just caught them on their way to a client,” someone else wrote. “Yes, it takes hundreds of bees to drive a van. No, it’s not wise to pull them over for speeding.”

But the real story is that this is a much more common situation for the beekeeping community than you might expect. The van in question belongs to the Boston-based company Best Bees, which offers beekeeping services to about 600 hives in both rural and urban environments in a dozen cities.

And according to the experts, the clip does not show anything out of the ordinary. And no, no one “spilled” any bees.

Alia Marinone, Best Bees’ director of operations, tells me the van had been carrying honey frames, the wooden contraptions that hold hives as they’re taken from place to place. Because this time of year there is relatively little nectar available in the wild, bees are “extremely interested in any drop” of it they can find. Since the frames are often coated in honey residue, all it takes is one bee to find this motherlode and alert its hive, and then bingo: van full of bees.

“It can take a matter of minutes and then all of a sudden you have hundreds of honey bees attracted to it,” Marinone says. “So it seems like the beekeeper had the van open and honey bees were attracted to it and went in the van. What happens then is we’ll take it to an area that’s a bit more remote and let them out.”

The view from the road, which appears to show an alarming number of bees in there, is probably misleading, she says, as bees in that scenario would be attracted to the sunlight pouring in the back window and congregate there. “It looks like the whole van is filled, but it’s likely they’re just clustering on those windows,” she says.

Marinone says she hopes no one was spooked by the sight, and insists a bee-heavy van like that, while potentially triggering for melissophobes, doesn’t pose a threat to other drivers or passers-by. The company is constantly dealing with large quantities of bees that are very much in our midst. Best Bees’ clients include several hotels in bustling parts of the city, including at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, which each host thousands of bees in their private rooftop hives. “It’s not anything anyone should be nervous about,” she says. “Hopefully it’s eye-opening to people that bees are everywhere.”