Swarm of honey bees in Fond du Lac

By CBS News

Published 07/14 2014 09:22PM

Updated 07/15 2014 08:19PM

FOND DU LAC, Wis (CBS) Firefighters in Fond du Lac had an unusual call to deal with last week. A huge swarm of honey bees who temporarily took up a new home in one quiet neighborhood.

 It is normal to see fire fighters in action wearing protective jackets, pants and oxygen tanks. But how about a beekeepers suit? That is what one fire fighter in that city had to wear to save the day.

 The sound of a few bees may cause panic in some.  However, it was not a small buzz that got Rosalie Otto's attention Thursday afternoon.

 "I called my husband and said, 'come and look, there's something out here," said Otto.

 Rosalie walked out her front door to find....

 "Thousands and thousands of bees," she said. "They were around the tree; they were up in the sky like a funnel."

 About 100,000 honey bees.  A swarm hanging out in her maple tree.  Rosalie called the police; an officer responded and was not sure what to do.  He cordoned off the tree, hoping they would leave by morning.

 "You think of killer bees.  So, I didn't want to get close because I thought, 'well, if they sit on you they're gonna sting and it's gonna hurt," Otto said.

 But come the weekend - the bees were still there, low enough for kids or people passing by to touch.

Police called in the Fond du Lac Fire Department and Lt. Todd Shippee suited up.

 "I'm a lot more afraid of a fire than I would be of a swarm of bees," said Shippee.

 Turns out this veteran firefighter happens to be a beekeeper too.  Trained five years ago on how to handle the insects safely - skills he brought to his firehouse.

 "That is a lot of bees and if they were aggressive or attacked, it would be lethal," said the firefighter. "But they normally won't attack if you leave them alone."

 And Shippee removed the ten-pound swarm and took the bees to his hives outside of town, without suffering a sting.

 "When you run out of resources and you don't know who else to call, just call the fire department.  We're prepared for any type of emergency," Shippe said.

Lt. Shippee says it is important not to kill honey bees - since they pollinate about 50 percent of the crops we eat.

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