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Swarm of bees forces Duluth-bound plane to head back to Vegas

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They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Perhaps the swarm of bees that forced a plane bound for Duluth to turn back was trying to enforce that adage.

The News Tribune reports the crew on an Allegiant Air flight that was leaving Las Vegas Monday decided to turn around after the plane struck the swarm. An Allegiant spokeswoman told the newspaper the bees were ingested into the plane's engines and had clouded the windshield.

One of the passengers on the flight tells WDIO she didn't feel anything unusual, but a smell filtered into the plane's cabin. Other passengers interviewed by the station described it as an awful burning smell and said some of those aboard the plane began to panic.

The passengers told WDIO the pilot announced that the plane had hit a bird and would be returning to Las Vegas. They said their fears were not relieved upon landing because once on the tarmac the plane was quickly surrounded by a swarm of fire and emergency vehicles.

Not until they were getting off the plane did the passengers learn from the pilot that it was actually bees they had struck. They boarded a different plane and made it to Duluth less than two hours late.

Flight delays caused by bees are not as rare as you might think, although the swarms are more common on the ground than in the air.

Last summer a plane in Charlotte, N.C., was prevented from taking off until a swarm was cleared.

Similarly, the previous summer a Delta Airlines flight from Pittsburgh was grounded while a master beekeeper was summoned to remove a swarm that had landed on a wing. 

Beekeeper Stephen Repasky told KDKA-TV then that swarms form when colonies become too large and the queen takes half the bees with her to find a new home.

Word that there are still swarms of bees large enough to make a airplane turn back might be a relief to some.

The population of honeybees in the Midwest has collapsed, raising concern among farmers who rely on bees to pollinate their crops.

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