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    Two days after Ali died, on Sunday, June 5, a text message from a Louisville Metro government employee woke Kevin McKinney at about 8:30 in the morning. Bees at the Belvedere. McKinney, a beekeeper with the Kentucky Beekeepers Association, receives such texts when the KBA has a request for swarm removal. McKinney headed downtown with protective gear, a hive box and no idea the insects — their placement and timing — would cause goosebumps and international headlines.

    The honeybees, about 15,000-strong, had gathered on a small tree facing the Muhammad Ali Center and standing just a few feet from a large Ali mural with his most famous quote — Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. As McKinney lured the queen bee and her followers into the box, reporters did the swarming. “It was a bit of a fiasco,” McKinney recalls. “I am shaking bees off the tree and there are thousands of bees flying in the air. I had to say, ‘Can you get those cameras out of my face?’” News of the bees spread quickly, even nabbing coverage on the BBC. “Some people thought someone maybe put the bees there,” McKinney says with a chuckle. “I find that pretty funny because you can’t just dump bees out and expect them to stay in one spot.”

    Was it coincidence? A message from the Greatest? “It’s either odd or God,” one man told WDRB news. Consider this: Upon successfully removing the hive, McKinney inspected the amount of wax left behind on the tree. It seemed to suggest the bees arrived on June 3 — the day Ali died.

     

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