Reporter: Lauren Compton l Videographer: Daniel Heffner
Moneta, VA - They pollinate our food supply, and help our flowers grow, but for years honey bees have been fighting for survival.
They are disappearing at alarming rates across the country so when a Moneta homeowner found an exposed bee colony, he called in friends to help.
Every time Mark Ray would go to his mailbox he'd be greeted by bees.
"I knew they were just honey bees, because they don't really come after you," said Ray.
For more than 10 years honey bees had made a home in a tree next to his mailbox. A storm knocked the tree over, exposing the bees, and Ray wanted to do his part to save them.
"I know they have been declining over the years, and I thought this would be a good strong colony to harvest," said Ray.
He called his friends Willard and Luke Dietz, hobby beekeepers to move the colony to a hive box. Dietz estimates about 30,000 to 40,000 bees lived in the tree, but getting them to move depends on finding just one.
"The idea is to get the Queen, once she is moved that will encourage all the other bees to locate where she's at," said Willard Dietz.
First the Dietzs used small smoke canisters to spray into the hive to subdue the bees. Using a chainsaw the Dietz cut open the hive to search for the brood honeycomb where the bees are born, and usually where the Queen Bee lives.
"Neither one of us could find the Queen. We know she's a little bit bigger, and it has a longer thorax," said Luke Dietz.
While the Dietzs didn't get to see her up close they're pretty confident the queen and her colony have found a new home in the hive box.
"We can see that the bees in the hive box are acting normally as they would if the Queen were in there," said Willard Dietz.
Without their help it's likely the bees would have died, Dietz says it's extremely difficult for a colony to reestablish itself especially in the winter.
The Dietzs plan to maintain the colony, and share the honey with their neighbors. Dietzs was stung by one bee during the process, but he says it's a small price to pay for what these little bees do for our environment.