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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bees Busted in Sting Operation




Residents of an apartment building in southwest Moscow will not soon forget the Great Bee Battle, the day policemen clutching automatic rifles and a special rescue unit clad in chemical-protection suits faced off against the swarms of bees filling their stairway.


By Friday, the day after the bees were defeated, their dry squashed bodies still lay scattered along the flights of stairs, but most of the mess -- dripping honey, pools of water, ripped up beehives -- was gone.


The ordeal started at about 8 p.m. Wednesday when the mother of Sergei Koryagin began quarreling with her 46-year-old son over his hobby of keeping bees on their balcony, said Lyudmila Vlasova, their neighbor at 25/1 Ulitsa Academika Volgina.


As Vlasova peeked outside, Antonina Koryagina hauled two beehives out of the ninth-floor apartment she shares with her son. "The honey was dripping from the hives, honeycombs were dropping onto the floor, and the bees were swarming everywhere!" Vlasova said.


Once she got the hives into the hallway, Koryagina started pouring boiling water over the bees to try to kill them, but she succeeded only in infuriating them, Vlasova said. With the help of another neighbor, Koryagina tried stuffing one of the hives into the elevator, but the wooden box broke apart, spilling the buzzing insects and their honey.


"I know she tried to throw the hives from the balcony, but Kolya [the neighbor] stopped her," said Vlasova, who called the police because thousands of bees were blocking her door.


Lieutenant Colonel Mikhail Pidlusky, the chief of the local Konkovo police department, said his fast reaction unit answered the call wearing bulletproof vests and fully armed with automatic rifles, Makarov pistols, nightsticks and canisters of tear gas. But it was not enough.


"By law, we have the right to fire at dangerous animals if they are attacking people, but bees are not dogs. You don't have enough bullets in an automatic rifle to get them," Pidlusky said. "And I don't have such snipers."


The police called in the city search-and-rescue unit to deal with the bees.


Yevgeny Ivanov, a rescuer who arrived at the scene at 1:45 a.m., said his four-man group sent scouts to check on the bees' demeanor. "They were pretty angry, so we had to put on our protection suits and masks," he said.


The rescuers borrowed bug spray from a neighbor to kill the bees flying around the stairwell and carried the hives outside, where they were squashed and thrown in a dumpster.


It was the first time in his two years of service that Ivanov has had to deal with bees. "Normally, we specialize in freeing people trapped in wrecked cars, but there was one time when my colleagues hunted two elks in the city for two days," he said.


The beehive owner, Koryagin, looked pale Friday as he moved slowly around his three-room apartment in torn slippers. His room was stuffed with records and newspapers, and on the other side of the dusty window, several bees flew calmly to and from four blue hives still on the balcony.


"I have tried keeping bees for 10 years, but they never stay over the winter. This stray swarm just flew in in June. They are stray and therefore their origin is questionable," Koryagin said, who acknowledged he had recently spent time in a psychiatric hospital.


Although some neighbors were stung by the bees, no one was hospitalized. One neighbor who is allergic was forced to stay outside until the bees were killed.


Pidlusky, the police chief, said there would be no investigation because the neighbors decided not to file a formal complaint against Koryagin, who they say has become markedly weaker since his recent hospitalization.