The players take a rest as the bees swarm overhead. © Getty Images

The players are forced to take a breather as bees swarm overhead at the Wanderers. © Getty Images

As South Africa surged to an unassailable 3-0 lead over Sri Lanka in the five-match One-Day International series at Wanderers in Johannesburg on Saturday (February 4), a bunch of unexpected, and unwanted, guests made a cameo appearance on the field.

After a supposed disturbance in a nearby beehive, its habitants swarmed to the ground in mighty numbers, causing funny scenes and even a lengthy stoppage in play for about an hour.

The bees arrived in the 27th over of the first innings, when Sri Lanka were batting, and players all around the infield had to hit the ground for safety. The bees seemed to take a special liking for Quinton de Kock’s helmet and formed a thick huddle around it.

The groundstaff, faced with a unique situation, tried various means to rid the playing area of the bees. They first tried to lure the bees into a wheelie-bin. They then used a fire extinguisher to try and get them away. None of it really worked.

Finally, it was Pierre Hefer, a local beekeeper, who saved the day. Watching the game from his apartment located 20 minutes away, Hefer realised his expertise could be put to use to solve the problem.

Clockwise from top: Niroshan Dickwella hits the ground while Quinton de Kock shields his face as a swarm of bees invades the Wanderers; the bees took a particular liking to de Kock's helmet, which was lying on the ground; a groundsman tries to get things in order with a fire extinguisher; players hit the ground as the bee-eviction exercise is on. © Getty Images

Clockwise from top: Niroshan Dickwella hits the ground while Quinton de Kock shields his face as a swarm of bees invades the Wanderers; the bees took a particular liking to de Kock’s helmet, which was lying on the ground; a groundsman tries to get things in order with a fire extinguisher; players hit the ground as the bee-eviction exercise is on. © Getty Images

“When they took out the fire extinguisher, I knew I had to get down here,” said Hefer afterwards, going on to explain, “You see, you might get rid of them for a bit, but they’ll come back. I thought they might be able to use my expertise. When I was watching on TV, and they had surrounded the helmet, I thought it might be as much as 5000 bees. But when I got here, it looked more like 1000 to 2000.”

Also read: Birds, bees, and other cricketing beasts

Seeing that Hefer got to the venue in his full beekeeping kit, security ushered him in without usual requirements for ticket or accreditation. “I think they saw me in this outfit, noticed all the equipment and reckoned I must be what I say I am, and with play stopped, they let me in,” laughed Hefer.

He lured the bees with a home-made hive and captured them in a large plastic tub, and was clapped off the field by the 30,000-strong crowd at the Wanderers. “Definitely the biggest audience I’ve worked in front of … that was my 15 minutes (of fame),” he joked.

This wasn’t the first case of play being interrupted by a life form. Birds, beasts and indeed bees have caused stoppages in play earlier.

On the third day of the New Delhi Test between India and Australia in 2008, bees had caused players to lie flat around the Feroz Shah Kotla pitch to avoid getting stung.