In August, a construction team at DTE Energy’s Blue Water Energy Center in St. Clair County was preparing to clear refuse inside an unused, fenced yard on the 30-acre site when they spotted a honeybee hive hidden amid steel plates, timber, pipes, and brush.

“I happened to look down at the right moment to find that some of the material we were planning to move had a hive of honeybees in it,” said Mason, a four-year DTE employee and Major Enterprise Projects construction supervisor

Having grown up on a farm and knowing the importance of bees as crop pollinators, Mason, who lives in the Thumb community of Marlette, decided to call a local beekeeper to see if he was willing to relocate the small hive of 5,000 to 6,000 bees.

“When I was growing up on the farm I learned that to protect the integrity and viability of crops, ours and those of our neighbors, you have to do what you can to ensure pollination.”

The beekeeper needed a few hours to coax and scoop the bees and their queen from the refuse pile on the site of what will become DTE’s $1 billion natural gas-fueled plant in East China Township. The bees were relocated to their new home among the beekeeper’s other hives.

Discovering the hive wasn’t entirely accidental because Mason and his team have their radar up because they often encounter stinging insects when they’re in the field. “We have to prepare for and deal with yellow jackets, ground bees, mosquitos, and ticks,” he said. “Bee stings are a leading cause of field worker injury, so we focus on being aware of what we’re literally walking into.”

“Thank you for saving these gentle, European Honeybees, the only kind of bees in North America that can be managed by humans for the mass pollination of 1,000 acre-plus single crops,” said Judith Durfy, a beekeeper and DTE research analyst based in Ann Arbor. “Many people don’t realize that all food crops, except grasses and grains, need a pollinator to produce foods for humans and to feed farm animals. All fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables require a pollinator to create a harvestable crop. Honeybee hives contain thousands of worker bees able to fly over 2.5 miles each way from their pollen sources. Using portable honey bee hives is how mass farm production is possible – at the lowest cost – so groceries can be domestically affordable and the surplus can be exported to other countries.” Durfy is a member of the Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association.

This is the second notable relocation of flora and fauna as site preparation continues toward the construction of the Blue Water Energy Center. Earlier this summer, a DTE Environmental Management and Resources team discovered more than 400 Sullivant’s milkweed plants on the property, putting into motion a relocation plan to relocate the threatened plant species and primary food source for Monarch butterflies.