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Long Story Short: Don't worry, bee happy


Illustration by JP Thimot


Bugged at the plaza

A woman parks her car and heads into a shopping plaza. She comes out later and her vehicle is covered with thousands of bees. This is a plot point in what B movie?

The Deadly Bees (1966)
Killer Bees (1974)
The Savage Bees (1976)
The Bees (1978)
The Swarm (1978)
Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare (1995)
Killer Bees (2002)
Killer Bees (2005)
Swarmed (2005)
Black Swarm (2007)
Killer Bees (2009)
Killer Bees (2017)
None of the above; it actually happened in Southgate Plaza about a week ago.


The answer:

If you guessed none of the above, you have a wild imagination—and you’re right. Various media outlets report that a queen bee became lodged in the grille of an unnamed driver’s car at the West Seneca plaza, and the whole swarm came to protect her. A beekeeper was called to collect the bees, which not only swarmed the front of the car, but also infested the engine under the hood. You can watch the beekeeper gathering the bees without protective clothing of any kind here. It took hours.


Sadly, the beekeeper was not able to retrieve the queen, but the worker bees can make another one by feeding royal jelly to newly hatched larvae. That’s right, royal jelly; I’m not making this up. Now, you may wonder just how a queen bee gets stuck in the grille of an SUV in the first place. Turns out, queen bees getting stuck in vehicles is such a common occurrence they should include it in the driver’s manual. Bee swarms can get too big for just one queen, so a second queen is permitted by the hive to survive (don’t ask about the others), and the first queen splits the scene with half the boy bees to look for new digs. Cars apparently make attractive hives.


Queen Bee is a 1955 movie staring Joan Crawford, whose character is described as “a queen bee who stings all her competitors to death.” However, as far as we know, Joan Crawford never got stuck in the grill of an SUV.



Bugged at the plaza II

A woman enters Walmart with her daughters, where she is confronted by two prosyltizing zealots who invite her to a bible study. The woman declines, but the holy crusaders follow her throughout the store. Later, she thinks she recalls one of them mentioning something about leaving to receive a free bible. Just then, two acquaintances approach our rattled protagonist. They inform her that, according to reports on social media, these evangelical womenfolk are known to lure shoppers out of stores with the promise of free religious materials. Then the customers (and their children) are kidnapped and taken away in vans by human traffickers.


Though the idea of people willingly following creepy evangelicals out to a parked van on the promise of scoring free religious swag is ludicrous on its face, the woman is now panicked. Tension grows as the shopper hurriedly leaves the store and is followed in her car by a mysterious panel van—even as she frantically makes numerous random turns. The potential kidnap victim calls the police and pulls into “a busy establishment,” as the van continues by.


This is a plot point to what B movie?
Believers (2007)
Red State (2011)
Kidnapped for Christ (2014)
None of the above; it’s an urban legend.


The answer

If you guessed none of the above, you catch on quick. Some portion of this event actually happened. How much is unclear. Most of it took place in the mind of one impressionable shopper at the Niagara Falls Boulevard Walmart in North Tonawanda. Later she described the entire incident on Facebook, and her account was picked up by a blog and went viral. The incident was investigated by police, and reported in the Buffalo News.   


What the police say:

Lieutenant Daryl Truty reviewed surveillance footage from cameras near the scene and determined that there was no van behind the woman as she left the store. Walmart surveillance cameras show no contact between the shopper and any women, though the cameras don’t cover the entire store.


Urban legend

The story the woman told closely follows an often-repeated social media rumor, variations of which have been traveling around the country since 2015. Local versions of the story were debunked by WGRZ news back in April. There is no human sex trafficking ring operating in the area. Snopes does its usual excellent job of researching the origins of the story. What is true is that a religious group has been annoying (and sometimes frightening) people in public places. The Tab identifies the group as “God the Mother,” and also debunks the associated urban legend.   


The takeaway:   

What seems likely is this: the shopper in the story was unnerved by the aggressive bible study women, and when her acquaintances told her about the rumors circulating on Facebook, she became hysterical (“…my already horrible anxiety kicked in…I began to cry running with my children…”). Then she imagined she was being followed by a van.


The woman posted her long account—inserting language from earlier rumor posts—and it went viral. And the legend continues.



Politics and the jerk

“Two simple words in the English language—'I forgot.’ How many times do we let ourselves get into terrible situations because we don’t say… ‘I forgot?’”—Steve Martin, from his live standup album, Comedy is Not Pretty


The facts:

East Aurora political strategist and media consultant Michael Caputo was working for the Trump campaign when he put a Russian contact named Henry Greenburg in touch with Trump advisor Roger Stone. Greenburg claimed he had dirt on Hillary Clinton. A secret, non-disclosed meeting between Stone and the Russian was set up, and the two Trump confidants exchanged emails indicating nothing useful had come from the meeting.  


Later, when they were interviewed under oath by congressional investigators, both emphatically and repeatedly denied any contact with Russians. "I spent my time in front of the committee detailing the fact that I had no contact with Russians, that I never heard of anyone with the Trump campaign talking with Russians, that I was never asked questions about my time in Russia, that I never even spoke to anyone about Russia, that I never heard the word 'Russia,' and we did not use Russian dressing," Caputo told reporters after his closed-door House intelligence committee testimony.


That was then

Recently special counsel Robert Mueller refreshed Caputo and Stone’s memories with the emails the two exchanged about the secret meeting.

Their excuse? “I forgot.”

Both have amended their testimonies.



The same year that Steve Martin’s Comedy is Not Pretty recording came out, his standup act was adapted for a movie screenplay. The man who informed us that every criminal act could be resolved with just the words “I forgot,” starred in the aptly named movie, The Jerk.



Short takes

Malt elevator restoration

Kudos to Young + Wright Architectural, which will soon move into the formerly abandoned Buffalo Malting Corporation grain elevator at 50 Elk Street. The company bought the property for a measly $5000 bucks, then poured more than $3 million dollars into renovations. As you might imagine with such a specialized structure that’s also on the National Register of Historic Places, the work wasn’t easy. Parts of the building even had to be rebuilt—brick by brick. Once the firm moves in, the plan is to add additional office and living space. Young + Wright retained much of the remaining machinery to use in what they are calling a malt museum. And they get bonus points for preserving an existing mural by local artist, Chuck Tingley.


Tops won't stop

It may be too soon for popping champagne corks, but Tops Markets made money two months straight, after filing for bankruptcy. It helps, of course, that the company is now free from the $80 million dollar annual interest payments it was paying before bankruptcy. There are still store closings to come, as (roughly) one in eight locations continue to lose money. Tops’ management is hoping bond holders will swap much of the company’s debt for equity in the restructured business. Bottom line: this is a hopeful sign for the once-mighty regional supermarket chain.


A new dawn for Buffalo police?

Newly promoted police Commissioner Byron Lockwood wants to change the image of Buffalo cops through community policing. Lockwood’s new approach is to work with community groups to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. And he plans to start by sending officers door-to-door in troubled neighborhoods to introduce themselves. Hopefully, this will not prompt heart attacks among citizens for whom a knock on the door by police usually means trouble. The new commissioner wants every cop to be “community police officers,” rather than just the eleven who held that title previously. Evidence that he’s serious: Lockwood disbanded Buffalo’s unpopular Strike Force Unit, ending the annoying (and possibly unconstitutional) traffic checkpoints it had been setting up. Good start.


The Great Race starts here

Remember the 1965 movie, The Great Race, with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Natalie Wood? It was very loosely based on the 1908 New York to Paris Race, and holds the dubious honor of having the largest pie fight scene in movie history. Since 1983, there has been a series of real races by that name, inspired by the movie. For the first time ever, Buffalo was the starting point of the 2,300-mile contest. On Saturday, more than 120 street-legal vintage automobiles lined up at the corner of Seneca Street and Michigan Avenue, and took off in one-minute intervals. The race will last until next Sunday, and you can track the drivers’ progress and see the cars they’re driving here.


Speaking of cars

Vehicles will soon be returning to Main Street, south of Exchange Street, once a $22.5 million-dollar restoration project is completed in 2020. It’s been over thirty years since the disastrous conversion of Main Street to a pedestrian mall. The plan to switch back to traffic, with added parking, is getting mixed reviews. But what renovation project in town doesn’t? The cost to date of converting Main Street back to a vehicle access road stands at $53 million dollars—about the price tag for the pedestrian mall in the first place. Because the success of Canalside is so essential to downtown, the planned work will be extended for more than eighteen months, so activities at the popular attraction will not be disrupted. It all begins in July.


Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.



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