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Meet the beekeeper who calmed tennis star Carlos Alcaraz at Indian Wells

INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: An invasion of bees suspends play between Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Alexander Zverev of Germany during the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 14, 2024 in Indian Wells, California. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
An invasion of bees suspended play between Carlos Alcaraz of Spain and Alexander Zverev of Germany during the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Thursday. (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

When Lance Davis got the call to go to Indian Wells Tennis Garden to deal with a beehive, he thought it might be in the parking lot like one he'd handled five days earlier.

But this one was different. On Thursday, in the middle of the Stadium 1 court, as the No. 2 player in the world Carlos Alcaraz battled against sixth-ranked Alexander Zverev, about 3,500 bees swarmed the court and landed on the spider camera filming the match.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are surrounded with bees here," said the match's referee, Mohamed Lahyani, before pausing play for about two hours.

Davis, who operates a Palm Desert bee-removal business called Killer Bee Inc., was summoned and weaved through traffic to get to the courts as quickly as possible, where, wearing no protective gear, he quickly vacuumed up the thousands of European and African honeybees to the wild cheers of the fans.

He was stung just three times.

"I was high-fiving everybody ’cause they were high-fiving me. It’s good to keep the mood nice and festive. It worked out really well," Davis told The Times.

Beekeeper Lance Davis, working without protective gear, vacuums a swarm of bees from the spider camera
Beekeeper Lance Davis, working without protective gear, vacuums a swarm of bees from the spider camera that's normally suspended above the Stadium 1 court by cables on Thursday at Indian Wells. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Davis said he never wears protective gear since he learned how to properly engage with bees. He's had some brutal encounters, however, like when he was stung about 600 times by an African honeybee swarm in the 1990s.

Compared to that, Stadium 1 at Indian Wells was a cakewalk.

Wearing sunglasses, a white, long-sleeved T-shirt and blue jeans, with his hair blowing in the wind, Davis fearlessly approached the bee-swarmed camera.

Alcaraz and Zverev were nowhere in sight, having left the court during the delay.

In a matter of minutes, Davis had vacuumed up most of the bees to save the match. Though a few apian invaders stuck around and harassed Alcaraz again, triggering a second pause in the match, Davis was on hand to capture them.

"He was concerned," Davis said of the Spaniard. "He said, 'There’s a bee that flies in front of my face. I have to be focused on what I'm doing, winning this tournament.' I said, 'Yeah, that’s a hassle.'"

"I settled him down. The bees aren’t going to be a problem as long as you don't keep your mouth open when you’re hitting the ball," Davis told Alcaraz.

Alcaraz was stung once as well, Davis said. But if it had any impact on his play, it wasn't apparent from the results.

Alcaraz won in straight sets 6-3. 6-1 to advance to the semifinals.

As for the bees, they're currently in Davis' garage in a "live catch cage." Once the weather warms up, Davis plans to take them to his apiary in Thermal, where he will release them.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.