A man popped into the shops for 10 minutes and when he returned, found his car filled with 15,000 bees.
The unidentified shopper parked up outside an Albertsons supermarket in Las Cruces, New Mexico on Sunday afternoon to grab some essential groceries.
He paid, got into his car and started driving away — and it wasn't until he turned around that he saw the enormous swarm of buzzing honey bees gathered in his back seat.
"Then he turned back and looked and like was 'holy cow'," firefighter and beekeeper Jesse Johnson told the New York Times.
"He called 911 because he didn't know what to do."
Mr Johnson got the call from the fire department and decided he was the perfect person to step in and help thanks to his bee expertise.
He donned his white beekeeping jacket and veil and used an empty scented hive box to gather the insects inside.
One photo from the scene shows how the bees were clinging to the side and roof of the car, whose window had been left partially open while the driver was away.
The bees were probably on the lookout for a new home and identified the man's empty car as a potential spot to take temporary shelter. Because they were on the move they were easier to handle, having no turf to aggressively defend.
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The Las Cruces Fire Department estimates 15,000 bees were removed in total.
The incident passed without injury except for one firefighter who was stung on the lip.
The man whose car had attracted the bees in the first place maintained a safe distance and wasn't too keen to get involved in the bee-wrangling process, Mr Johnson said.
"He was worried because the car was borrowed from a friend."
He said it's common for bee colonies to split in the spring, with a swarm following a queen to a new location.
The insects that tried to move into the car may have come out of a nearby parapet or gutter or from a local house.
"Luckily, when bees are swarming, they're pretty docile," Mr Johnson said.
"They don't have a home to protect for a moment. It's much more intimidating than it is dangerous."
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