As a result of the storms across the region Sept. 17, a large tree fell across Towana Road near the University of Richmond campus. Staff members from University Facilities responded to the scene to assess the damage and remove the tree.

“What they found was a tree that had rotted in the middle and was full of bees. Lots of bees,” said Karla Connelly, administrative assistant in Facilities.

Kirstin BerbenThe staff immediately contacted Kirstin Berben, laboratories manager in the biology department. Berben is one of two campus beekeepers and helps oversee UR’s beekeeping program.

“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.

After collecting the needed equipment, Berben, along with campus electrician David Rodriquez and landscape manager Karen Williams suited up and got to work.

“We started picking up the comb and transferring clusters of bees into a large storage bin,” Berben explained. “There was a large cluster that seemed to include the queen, so we focused on that.”

Berben, who also maintains beehives at her house, then transported the bees to her home six miles away from campus.

Bees relocated“If you relocate a colony too close to its original home, the bees may try to return, so I felt it was best to move them off campus for the time being,” Berben said.

Berben hopes this colony can join the existing hives back on campus sometime in the spring after she ensures they are healthy.

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Media Coverage

Fox News: Tornado in Virginia cracks open tree filled with 70,000 bees: 'It was a catastrophic situation'

The Miami Herald: 70,000 very upset bees exposed after a tornado ripped down a rotting tree in Virginia
This story was distributed by McClatchy news wire and appeared in more than 20 additional outlets, including The Charlotte Observer and The Fresno Bee.

The Epoch Times: Virginia Tornado Cracks Open Tree, Releases 70,000 Bees

iHeartRadio: 70,000 Bees Released After Tornado Topples Tree In Virginia
This radio story was picked up by 30 additional outlets.

NBC 12: University of Richmond employees rescue 70K bees after tornado downs tree

8 News: Thousands of bees rescued at University of Richmond after tree falls in storm

Laboratories Manager Biology Department
Coastal Ecology
Field Research Techniques