Approximately 3 million bees were found swarming around a man's Queens, N.Y., home on Wednesday night, and were confiscated -- to the relief of his neighbors.
Yi Gin Chen had beehives packed into the backyard -- about 45 hives in total, said Andrew Cote, president of the New York City Beekeepers Association. Cote said Chen, a beekeeper in his native China, had contacted the beekeepers' association earlier in the month for help with the bees because he was trying to sell his Corona, Queens, home.
Chen allegedly started with one hive a couple years ago, and the insects kept multiplying, reported the New York Daily News.
“It’s gotten out of hand,” Chen told The Daily News Wednesday night as New York City Police Department officials and volunteers from the Beekeepers Association collected the bees. “I don’t have the time or resources to do this.”
Cote said Chen's real estate agent contacted him a few weeks ago and told him that Chen, who only speaks Mandarin, had "four or five hives" that he wanted to sell.
When Cote arrived at the home, he was shocked to find it was actually 45.
"That's something like 3 million bees, which is more bees than there are people in Queens," Cote said Thursday from his honey stand at a farmer's market outside Manhattan's Rockefeller Center.
"Many of the neighbors were tremendously upset about the bees and fearful to walk out their door because it literally led to three feet from the mouth of an open hive, each of which had approximately 60 to 80,000 bees," Cote said.
Cote said he advised Chen to immediately register the hives with the city, per local regulations, and also gave him suggestions to make the situation better for his terrified neighbors.
One resident, Louie Socci, told the Daily News he called the city once to complain.
“It’s like a big swarm of a couple million bees. You never seen anything like it in your life,” Socci told The Daily News. “The guy’s nuts. I called the city once and they didn’t do anything.”
Last night, during the four-hour operation to seal up the hives and remove them from the property, Cote discovered that not only were there a lot of bees, but they were also in poor health.
"The bees were in terrible condition. I'll be surprised if any of them survives the winter. He stripped them of all their honey," he said. "The average weight of a hive at this time of the year would be at least 180 pounds, and these averaged 40 pounds. He took all of their honey and didn't leave any for them."
It's not clear what Chen was doing with the honey, but Cote suspects based on conversations he has had with other beekeepers in the area that he was selling it.
Beekeeping has been legal in New York since 2010. No license is needed, but if beehive owners don't register their hives, they can be fined.
It's not known yet what charges Chen may face. Calls from NBC News to the New York Police Department were not immediately returned.
Anthony Planakis, who heads bee control for the NYPD, told The New York Post of Chen's home, “Picture 45 dogs in one apartment. It’s cruelty to the bees.”
New York City has ramped up its bee-control efforts recently. Earlier this month, Planakis -- who has been fighting stingers since 1995 -- was promoted from officer to detective by NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelley, and granted a "bee-mobile" and other equipment, The New York Post reported.
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