WINSTON-SALEM – N.C. Department of Transportation Division 9 staff were performing a routine job last week when they made a sweet discovery.
Maintenance crews were working on storm drainage box repairs and cutting down dead trees along U.S. 52 when they discovered something unusual. Two beehive colonies were found within one of the trees near the Patterson Road exit.
Transportation Supervisor Kenny Butler called the office to ask his colleagues Greg Dellacona and Danielle Herrin to help search for a local contact for honeybees online.
The search led them to Miss Humble B’s Hive, a local organization affiliated with the Forsyth County Beekeepers Association. The group came to the site and collected one live queen, some honeycomb and most of the hive to relocate them to a small wooden hive in their own back yard. The NCDOT staff were also rewarded with some of the natural honey from the hive once the bees were removed.
While honeybees are not listed as an endangered species, their numbers along with several other species of bees have been on the decline over the past few decades. This has mostly been attributed to climate change, harmful chemical use and habitat loss among other factors. The loss of these important pollinators could have a significant impact on fruit and vegetable crops and wildflowers.
“When we look at the honeybee population, it is definitely on a decline,” said Tiffany Williams-Brooks, who owns Miss Humble B’s Hive with her husband, Derek. “When it comes to the number of hives beekeepers have nationally, the number has declined by at least 50 percent over the last several years.”
Williams-Brooks said the hive in the tree had been badly damaged and the bees had likely swarmed during its time there.
“We were unable to find new brood and eggs,” she said. “We found open queen cells where new queens had emerged at some point. There were a lot of bees flying around, but they may not have belonged to that hive. We are in a nectar dearth, [or] scarcity of nectar, so often we will see bees coming in to take honey from other hives.”
The bees rescued from the U.S. 52 site will remain in the wooden hive until the queen starts laying eggs and the colony has enough bees to protect a larger hive.
Butler said he felt relocating the bees was simply the right thing to do. “We’re proud of the work our people do and are appreciative of the effort they take to just do the right thing,” he said.
For more information about pollinator protection initiatives and what you can do to help protect pollinators visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.