Families flee as bees swarm homes at Milburn Close

FAMILIES including young children and babies fled in panic when a massive swarm of bees descended on their Cookstown homes clustering in their thousands on a gable wall.

Terrified mums flailed their way through the swarm which landed on a garage at Milburn Close on Friday lunchtime.

Nicola Taylor (25) was coming home from nursery with her four-year-old son Ryan and a four-month-old baby boy Jayden when a neighbour spotted her and warned her about the bees.

“They were all round my back garden,” said Nicola. “It was scary.”

A grandmother who didn’t want to be named said: “We were just sitting out the back on that lovely day on Friday and mummy was sitting looking out over the back fence and said ‘oh my God look at that’.

“It was like a black cloud was coming over the fence from Tesco’s direction. At that start we thought it was flies but then we could hear the humming,” she said. “It was unbelievable. They formed a big, big, clump. We could hear the buzzing. The swarm was maybe two feet wide and about a foot high. If you didn’t know you would have thought it was a big weed from a distance. But there was still a lot of them flying round. I started warning all the neighbours.

“I was afraid of any of the children coming out and going over to investigate and poke it,” she said, adding that she called Cookstown Council.

“There were a lot of children about here, it was a hot day, people were going to be out and about. I thought somebody is going to get attacked.

“Then the bees all started to fly about. So everyone fled indoors and shut all their windows and doors. They were actually hitting off my kitchen window. You would have thought it was hailstones. It was very scary. I have never seen anything like it before in my life.

“It was a bit like that movie, ‘The Birds’.

“Then they started moving in Tesco’s direction. There is a path there and the people coming up that path were running the other road to get away from them. You could see people slapping and beating at them, flailing them away. Nobody could believe it. It was serious.

“Then they all came back to the same garage again to the same spot.

“I was raging at the Council. I thought they should be out here doing something about it,” she said.

“I thought it a disgrace that the council could do nothing about it,” she said.

Another local resident said: “We couldn’t even get out of the house. A neighbour had just lit a barbecue and as soon as it was lit, they swarmed into his yard and it was like hailstones on his back window.

“I never experienced anything like it in my life,” she said. “The photographs that we took show only about half of them,” she said. “At the start it was on the wall like a big pear shape.”

Nicola had to go out on Friday to her mum’s . “I ran to the car and there were loads of bees on the car window. It was unreal,” she said. “The bees were all round my mum’s car.

“The council hadn’t done anything and I was afraid they would kill them as bees are becoming extinct so I called a beekeeper. I didn’t really want them to be killed. The man came out and took them away within half an hour,” she said.

Hero beekeeper Michael Palframan strode into the rescue armed with a smoker, a brush and a box. Protected by a head guard and gloves, he swept the bees into the box and took them to his Castledawson home.

“All I did was light the smoker. The smoke is used to drive the bees as they retreat from the smoke. I just put a box under the cluster and brushed them in with my hand.

“Normally I work without gloves but the swarm had been there for at least 24 hours. The longer they go on the more angry they get so I put the gloves on as a precaution,” he said.

“They certainly weren’t a risk to anyone in the community at that time but of course they can be,” said Michael.

Asked if they might have attacked the children, he said: “If you disturb them they can get aggressive and anything that moved near them they would attack. It is part of their defensive behaviour. In those conditions though they were just content to be left alone. They would have eventually have moved on and found somewhere else to stay. It was a transitional position they were in.

Ulster Unionist Councillor Trevor Wilson was called in by the residents. He said he was concerned there was no pest control over weekend.

“I think it’s a disgrace that come 5pm on a Friday the Housing Executive have no method for pest control. The council attended out of hours but couldn’t do anything as it was NIHE,” he said, explaining that the NIHE had responsibility as the bees had clustered on their property.

“Good for the locals who rallied together and sorted it,” said Councillor Wilson.

Mark Kelso said: “A complaint came in on Friday evening. They rang quite late on Friday. The officer that was tasked to it was unable to get to it before five. The call came back again on the out of hours emergency number. An officer was tasked and responded on Friday evening and spoke to the complainants and the man who had a connection with the property concerned. The individual whose name was against the property was spoken to and advised that he needed to take action.

“When the council officer returned on Monday, the situation had been resolved. If the bees had still been there the council would have had a pest control system up and running.

“We did respond and gave advice to the property owner to have the matter addressed and checked back on Monday morning. It was a very usual set of circumstances,” said Mr Kelso.