Ned Yost talking to reporters last year. Image: Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr
Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost loves bees, and the bees seem to love him. For two years in a row, a cloud of bees has descended on one of the team’s spring training games. Last year, when the insects were killed, Yost was so bummed that this year he made sure a similar sports-loving swarm didn’t meet the same fate.
On Tuesday, the swarm of bees arrived at the Royals and Colorado Rockies spring training game, exactly one year to the day from a similar incident last season. Last March, a cluster of honey bees clung to the screen behind home plate during a game and floated around players and fans. By the bottom of the fourth, the bees had become such a buzzkill that an exterminator was sent in to destroy them.
This decision really stung Yost, who called it a “mass bee genocide” at the time. He suggested a better solution would have been to douse the bees in smoke to subdue them, collect the insects with a vacuum, and release them outside the stadium.
“They’re just honey bees, man, there’s a decline in honey bees,” Yost told reporters. “It was kind of sad to see.”
Yost is right. Honey bees, along with other pollinators like butterflies and bats, are facing serious threat of extinction around the world. A recent United Nations report warned that pollinator species, which help to pollinator three quarters of the world’s food supply, are on the decline and the problem is getting worse. For bees, part of the issue is due to colony collapse disorder, a growing but yet-unexplained phenomenon where entire colonies of bees suddenly vanish from the hive, leaving only the queen. The USDA estimates every third bite of food we eat benefits from honey bee pollination. Protecting honey bees—even the game-interrupting kind—is crucial for global food security.
Luckily, this year when the bees came to town, Yost got a sweet relief after insisting to Royals VP of communications Mike Swanson that the bees not be killed this year.
“I told Swanny, we ain’t killing those bees,” Yost said in a press conference after the game. “There aren’t enough bees in the world, boys, we can’t be exterminating them. I’m telling you. They are dwindling and they’re so important to our environment because they pollinate everything. It doesn’t make any sense for me to panic and kill bees.”
As luck would have it, a 71-year-old retired beekeeper named Lowell Hutchison was in attendance at the game. He offered to help and, along with a stadium worker, collected the bees with his bare hands into a garbage bag and shuttled them out of the stadium. Hutchison later told the Kansas City Star the best part was that he got to shake Yost’s hand on his way to humanely dispose of the buzzing attendees.
“No dead bees, and everyone is happy,” Hutchison said.
The Royals won the game Tuesday 3-2, and took last year’s bee-invaded game against the Los Angeles Angels 6-4, too. Perhaps, when you’re a friend to the bees, a swarm is good luck.
Correction: An earlier version of this story described colony collapse disorder as a phenomenon where entire colonies of bees die. In fact, the bees disappear and abandon the hive.