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Bee invasion suspends Zverev - Alcaraz at Indian Wells

The quarter-final at Indian Wells was suspended after a swarm of the insects turned up at Stadium 1 and apparently tried to nest in a camera.

The match between Alexander Zverev of Germany and Carlos Alcaraz of Spain was suspended due to a bee invasion during the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, USA, 14 March 2024.

“Play suspended due to bee invasion,” chuckled the umpire. An unusual way to bring a halt to a tennis match, but that’s exactly what happened in the match between Zverev and Alcaraz in the first set, with Alcaraz 15-0 up on his serve, tied at one game apiece.

The umpire was at least laughing as he said it, but Alcaraz had been notably bothered by the bees swarming round him, and had ended up sprinting off to the safety of the dressing room to avoid getting stung.

Bee keeper working to remove the swarm at Indian Wells

A bee keeper eventually arrived at Indian Wells, from a company called Killer Bees, and worked to remove the swarm, initially with what looked to be a large vacuum cleaner.

The bee keeper himself was soon the hero of the hour, as after cleaning out the camera where the bees had tried to set up a hive he ran round the stadium, giving high fives to fans as he chased down the final bees, while Alcaraz and Zverev looked on laughing.

Even once the bees had been mostly cleared, over an hour and a half after the swarm arrived, the players were reluctant to get back to the action, as there were still a few individual bees buzzing about the court. The bee keeper explained to the players that the bees were unlikely to sting and that they had been confused and looking for sheltered place, Alcaraz initially insisted he was worried about them and kept seeing them, but eventually the players got back to action. Alcaraz held serve in the game that was interrupted and went on to win the match 6-3, 6-1.

The hero beekeeper
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The hero beekeeper FREDERIC J. BROWNAFP

Bees at Indian Wells attracted by TV camera

The bees appeared to have been attracted by one of the TV cameras above the court, where they seemed to be keen on setting up a new hive.

Was Carlos Alcaraz stung?

According to Albert Molina, the manager of Carlos Alcaraz, the Spanish player was stung by a bee on his forehead. He said that Alcaraz had been “totally surrounded” by the insects. However when the players came back out Alcaraz appeared unaffected by the incident.

The umpire, Mohamed Lahyani, also appeared to be stung just after he announced the match had been suspended.

Carlos Alcaraz did do the right thing, when he ran away. Running away in a straight line is the strategy recommended by experts, though he made a mistake by swatting them before he did so. You should only try to protect your face by shielding yourself and avoid flailing your arms, and/or racket, about. That is only likely to annoy the bees more.

How long might it take to get rid of the bees?

According to professional outfit Bee Best Bee Removal, removing a swarm, as opposed to a hive, can be a fairly quick process, possibly as quickly as 15 minutes once the experts arrive.

Roberto Imberti, a Spanish beekeeper, spoke to our sister radio station Cadena Ser to explain that “it tends to take some two hours to get the bees into a container.

Previous bee incidents at tennis tournaments

In 2008, a bee swarm descended on Wimbledon, but it was on the evening before the Championships started and no play was lost, although players and fans were forced to run for shelter from the pollinating beasts. Meanwhile Stefanos Tsitsipas asked the umpire to kick a fan out at the Cincinnati Open in 2023 for imitating a bee, which was putting the Greek player off his stroke.

Away from tennis, the Sri Lanka v South Africa Cricket World Cup match in 2019 was suspended due to bees, while Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had to avoid not a swarm but one particularly enraged bee back in training last summer.