MATTHEWS – When Pressly Williams saw the damage at Renfrow Farms the morning after a severe thunderstorm and tornado struck Matthews, she was heartbroken. However, she knew what happened was out of the farm’s control.
Williams, a farmer at Renfrow Farms, shared photos to the farm’s social media that showed the destruction of many beehives. Of approximately 50 beehive structures, only eight were still standing after the storm. Renfrow is known for its honey, which is sold at Renfrow Hardware downtown.
“There was no way to know that a 150-yard-wide tornado would go right smack through the hives,” Williams said. “It was sad, but we knew that our beekeeper would come to look at it and really assess the situation.”
After the farm’s beekeeper, John Caudle, assessed the damage, he saw that not all of the boxes the structures are made of were broken, just blown over. Caudle repaired many of the hives Friday morning. Williams said the farm probably only lost about 10% of the hives it had.
But Williams said Caudle estimated that only 20 hives still had life in them. This sounded grim, but Williams said Caudle was optimistic. Though not many bees were left in the hives Friday morning, there were no dead bees found on the farm.
Williams said with the snowy, cold weather the next day, she did not know if that number would remain the same.
“We won’t know for sure until about another week or so until he can come out on a warm day because you don’t want to open up the hives until it’s a warm day so you can look and inspect them for queen bees still living in them,” Williams said.
Honey production at Renfrow Farms will not delay, despite the destruction. Williams also said Caudle will start new hives so that life can continue there.
Several members of the Matthews community took to social media to ask if the bees were OK. Williams said she did not expect such a big reaction from the community.
“I think partly, it’s the concern that people have for bees in general,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of bee problems and bees dying, so people are already invested in the plight of the bees. And then, our honey is so popular that a lot of people are buying our honey and eating it every single day, so the bees are on their mind every day, so there’s that connection as well.”
Community members have also reached out to Renfrow Farms to see if they can help. Williams said her friends helped her clear out the immediate damage on the farm already. The rest will take professional help.
“At this point, everything else is going to require professional work because we have a whole lot of trees around the beehives that are hanging on other trees,” Williams said. “We have really big ones down that will take heavy equipment to move. So, there’s not really anything else that can be done at this point, but we really appreciate all the people that have been asking.”