Virginia Tornado Cracks Open Tree, Releases 70,000 Bees

September 20, 2018 Updated: September 20, 2018

One of the multiple tornadoes that touched down in and around Richmond, Virginia on Monday, Sept. 17 cracked open a tree that held 70,000 bees.

The tornadoes caused extensive damage in the area, leaving a number of buildings damaged, at least one person injured, and one person dead.

The tree holding the bees fell across Towana Road near the University of Richmond campus.

Staff members responded to remove the tree and found tens of thousands of bees.

“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,” Kirstin Berben, laboratories manager in the biology department and one of the overseers of the university’s beekeeping program, said in a university article.

Berben and some colleagues collected bee suits 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.”

She ultimately took the bees to her house, which is about six miles from the campus.

She noted that bees try to return to their original home if relocated too close to it, so she wanted to move them off-campus for the time being.

Building Collapse

The Old Dominion Floor Co. experienced a building collapse from the tornado, killing one and leaving another injured. It was the first fatality from a tornado in 20 years in the area.

Drone footage from local authorities showed extensive damage to the building.

National Weather Service surveys confirmed nine tornadoes total, including the EF-2 that hit Old Dominion, which had a maximum wind speed of 125 miles per hour, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The deceased was later identified as Ronnie Bishop, 60.

The outbreak of tornadoes, which is unusual for Virginia, was caused by Hurricane Florence, meteorologists said.

According to WTVR, “The energy generated east of the tropic depression put us in the path of moderate wind shear. The shear, along with high humidity, spread strong storms that produced tornadoes and torrential afternoon rain.”


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