70,000 bees saved after tornado knocks down tree-housing colony near Richmond, Virginia

By Mark Puleo, AccuWeather staff writer
September 21, 2018, 8:33:15 PM EDT

Richmond staffers rescue bee colony

(Photo/University of Richmond)

On Monday, Sept. 17, a series of tornadoes resulting from Florence struck Virginia and caused heavy destruction in the Richmond area.

Along with one confirmed fatality and numerous damaged buildings, the tornadoes knocked down a tree housing about 70,000 bees, according to a news release from University of Richmond.

The university shared that Kristin Berben, who is a laboratories manager in the biology department, was immediately contacted to help.

“The tree was cracked open, and it was a catastrophic situation for the bee colony inside, which I estimate was about 70,000 bees based on the amount of honeycomb,” Berben said in the release.

Fallen tree with bee colony

(Photo/University of Richmond)

Berben, campus electrician David Rodriguez and landscape manager Karen Williams picked up honeycombs and large clusters of bees to transport the colony to safety. They ultimately decided to move the bees six miles away from campus in order to prevent the bees from returning too quickly.

The tree, which was rotted and hollow, had housed the entire colony. Berben said that they were likely able to save the queen of the colony, based on the size of the cluster they transported.

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Berben has long focused on the health of bees at the Richmond campus, as she has helped co-lead the university’s beekeeping program. The program observes hive behaviors and investigates how environmental conditions affect the species, according to the university.

“Maintaining working, productive hives at UR will allow students to observe and work with a living laboratory,” Berben said. “Which will demonstrate the interconnected roles of individual species in our local system.”

The National Weather Service confirmed 10 total tornadoes to touch down in Virginia this past week. Seven of the tornadoes struck the Richmond area. The strongest of the tornadoes was an E-F2 with estimated winds of 115-125 miles per hour in Chesterfield County.

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