ROCK ISLAND -- Police Chief John Wright had a jail break on his hands Friday afternoon.
The Rock Island police chief, a novice beekeeper, arrived shortly after noon to try to corral a swarm of bees that had taken up residence on the back bumper of a Chevrolet Lumina at Sherri D's Auto Sales.
He was about 15 minutes too late. Workers at the car lot reported the bees were gone when they checked about 12 p.m. No one saw them go, but as swarms change location, they are described as leaving in a cartoon-like cloud that swirls away.
"It would've been a cool cloud to see," said Sherri Disterhoft, owner of Sherri D's. ‘’They must've left for a lunch date."
Chief Wright arrived with a brood box filled with sheets of wax to transport the swarm, but all that was left was about 50 to 100 bees and a white residue on the car's back bumper. Speculation was the residue was bee droppings left behind by the heaping, writhing mound of black and yellow.
About a half-hour after he set down the box, with a dribble of honey to try to attract the bees, Chief Wright, who has two hives on property he owns in Mercer County, opened the box and found he didn't have many takers.
"I thought I was going to get a free hive, but it doesn't look like it," he said. "Once they find a spot, it doesn't take long for them to leave."
Ms. Disterhoft's employees said the bees left about one hour short of a three-day residency at the car lot.
The swarm, likely split off from a hive after a younger queen kicked out an older queen in what is a coup bee’etat.
Overpopulation of a hive, along with an older queen bee and a mild winter, like the Quad-Cities enjoyed, can cause a swarm, according to the University of Nebraska's entomology Web site.
Chief Wright, who has kept bees for about three years, has had a swarm split from one of his hives. The swarm massed on a nearby tree and he was able to drop it into a brood box and save it.
"A good beekeeper, unlike myself, doesn't want a swarm," he said.
The bees were good neighbors during their stay at Sherri D's, employees said, staying together clumped to the car bumper. That is typical of swarms looking for a home.
"Just leave them alone and they won't get aggressive on you," Chief Wright said.
The time to worry is if a swarm relocates in the crack of a house or an attic, then the bees get more aggressive, he said.