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Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 08/16/2016 09:43:05

Good Morning.

Being just back from vacation, my story archive is looking a little empty this morning. But of all things, there's actually a story that combines some things we've been following here for years - the F-22, and Bees!

Of all the challenges aircraft maintainers face, this might have been one of the strangest.

After an F-22 Raptor landed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., June 11, maintainers discovered that a swarm of honey bees had descended on the fifth-generation fighter, A Defense Department press release noted that “this had never happened on the flightline before.”

The swarm of bees — about 20,000 of them, according to an expert called in by the base — were hanging from the aircraft’s exhaust nozzle.

“The honey bees most likely came from a much larger bee hive somewhere else on base,” said Chief Master Sergeant Gregg Allen, the Air National Guard’s 192nd Maintenance Group quality assurance chief, who, coincidentally, happens to be a beekeeper.

“Bee hives are constantly growing and they eventually become overcrowded,” Allen said. “Around springtime, the bees will make a new queen, scout for a new location and take half of the hive with them to that location.”

The first reaction of maintenance personnel was to find some way to get rid of the bees. Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Baskin, a crew chief with the 192nd Maintenance Squadron, suggested finding some way to move the swarm.

“I was shocked, like everyone else, because it looked like a cloud of thousands of bees, but I knew they wouldn’t sting anyone and were just looking for a new place to live,” Baskin said. “My neighbor maintains two colonies of honey bees, and I knew they are at risk for extinction, I figured we might want to get a honey bee expert out to collect them.”

The aircraft maintenance officer and on-base entomologist decided to call in a local beekeeper.

The expert, Andy Westrich, a Navy retiree, reportedly told maintainers it was one of the largest swarms he had ever seen.

Westrich believes the colony's queen bee landed on the F-22 to rest, and the swarm followed, according to the Pentagon press release. Queen bees generally do not eat for up to 10 days before leaving to found a new colony, and therefore are often malnourished for the journey, the release said.

Capt. Katie Chiarantona, an aircraft maintenance officer, said Westrich told her that one of two things would have happened: “the queen would have rested and gained energy and the swarm would’ve left in the morning, or they would have decided that the jet engine would be a great place to build a hive.”

Westrich was able to safely relocate the bee colony to a local beer producer that will make use of the honey produced.

“Every bee is important to our food source. Lots of things would die without bees,” Baskin said. “Most of our crops depend on bees, and our bees need to pollinate. This is why I knew we needed to save them instead of [exterminate] them.”

Changing gears, it's still summer. Even though some southern locations have already gone back to school (I'm looking at you, Florida) and here in the Northeast, we've got about two weeks to go, for many it's still vacation season. Whether you go to a theme park like us, or are more interested in natural beauty, there's still plenty to see and do. For instance, how'd you like to check out this rugged little gem?


Well....it's in Afghanistan. But that hasn't stopped people from trying.

When police stopped a van travelling across central Afghanistan to the city of Herat, they were really surprised: it was full of Western tourists.

The visitors' presence in one of the world's most dangerous countries made headlines after their vehicle, now under police escort, was caught in a suspected Taliban ambush.

It is debatable whether the presence of security forces endangered the tourists' lives or saved them - at least five foreigners were slightly wounded.

But their trip across a stretch of country widely seen to be risky underlined the dangers such travellers face, and the difficulty Afghanistan's stretched police force has in protecting them.

"Because of the police they're alive," said a senior Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Otherwise they would all be dead."

In the van, which was badly burned in the August 4 attack, were six Britons, two Americans and a German, part of a steady trickle of visitors lured by the stunning beauty of the landscapes and landmarks and, in some cases, by the thrill of danger.

In this instance, the group had set out from Bamiyan, once home to giant Buddha statues carved into the cliffs until they were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

They were driving west to Herat, an ancient city near the Iranian border renowned for its citadel and blue-tiled mosque.

The Afghan government welcomes travel to what it considers safe areas, where Taliban militants, seeking to topple the government and return to power, are not deemed a threat.

Even then visitors are encouraged to fly, rather than drive between destinations whenever possible, said Zardasht Shams, Deputy Minister of Information and Culture.
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"The (convoy) in Herat was not co-ordinated with us," he said, adding that many tourists visited the country last year without incident. "We do encourage tourists to come and visit Afghanistan, but after checking with us first."

After an Indian woman was kidnapped from downtown Kabul in June, officials sparked controversy by telling expatriate residents to hire guards or use police escorts.

Bamiyan, which also boasts Afghanistan's first national park, is seen as relatively secure, the Interior ministry official said.

"In such places we have no concerns," he told Reuters. "But when they go elsewhere, we expect them to take extra measures. Unfortunately some do not."

I think we'll leave it at that today - we'll return with a *real* ask a vet next week.

23 comments (Latest Comment: 08/16/2016 20:17:20 by Raine)
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