The morning of December 28, 2017, was a bitter one for apiarists Justin and Tori Engelhardt of Sioux City, Iowa. On their way to check on their farm’s 50 hives, located on 18 1/2-acres of property, the couple noticed their beekeeping supplies shed had been ransacked. The nightmare continued as they discovered that the entire operation had been vandalized overnight, killing at least half a million bees.

Justin told the Sioux City Journal:

“They knocked over every single hive, killing all the bees. They wiped us out completely. They broke into our shed, they took all our equipment out and threw it out in the snow, smashed what they could. Doesn’t look like anything was stolen, everything was just vandalized or destroyed.”

Credit: Sioux City Journal

Wild Hill Honey was founded about six years ago by the couple after they became interested in bees. The entrepreneurs sell jars of pure, raw and creamed varieties of honey and other byproducts in the local area, at trade shows, and in other spaces. However, the vandalism, which Justin referred to as “completely senseless,” threatened to completely wipe them out.

Only last week were the perpetrators, two boys aged 12 and 13, caught by the Sioux City police. The boys have been charged with three felonies — including criminal mischief in the first degree and burglary in the third degree — in addition to possession of burglar’s tools, and an aggravated misdemeanor. As Science Alert reports, the boys could face up to 10 years in prison and fines as much as $10,000 if they are found guilty of committing the crimes. Because they are minors, it is likely their case will be heard in a juvenile court. There, lesser penalties would be imposed. So far, it is unclear why the pre-teens behaved in such a reckless manner. 

Credit: Sioux City Journal

The boys caused between $50,000 and $60,000 worth of damage. Because insurers don’t offer beehive coverage, the couple didn’t know how to rebuild their business. Fortunately, the internet and kind citizens behind it have helped. A GoFundMe page set up by a friend of the Engelhardts has raised in excess of $30,000. This means Wild Hill Honey will once again be open for business and sell its stores.

“It was amazing and we are deeply grateful for all of the contributions from the people of Sioux City and people around the country,” Justin said. “Bees are critical and people are conscious of the fact that bees are having a hard time right now and facing some real challenges.”

Credit: Wild Hill Honey/Facebook

News of the vandalism wasn’t just devastating for the beekeepers, environmentalists and animal rights activists felt personally injured by the act. After all, bees are vital for the ecosystem to thrive, and their numbers have been declining in recent decades to a myriad of factors. In fact, scientists are now claiming bee populations are facing what appears to be an extinction crisis. Studies suggest the overuse of toxic pesticides called neonicotinoids are to blame. Electro-magnetic frequencies (EMF) and mites are also believed to contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder.

Credit: Bees Hive

Without bees, the entire global food industry is at-risk. The bumbling insects collect pollen as they buzz from plant to plant, and their work ensures food crops keep growing. To have half a million honeybees wiped out isn’t just maddening, it is an injustice to all beings who share this planet. Hopefully, this news prevents similar acts from occurring. 

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h/t Science Alert, Sioux City Journal