About a half million bees were killed in Texas last Friday night after somebody intentionally destroyed over a dozen hives, setting them on fire and dumping them into a nearby pond. The crime, which appeared to be a meaningless act of pure vandalism, has left local beekeepers in a state of shock.
To make matters worse, the destruction of the hives coincided with the beginning of the bees’ most active pollinating and honey season. It could take a year or more for the bee population in the region to recover.
About 24 colonies were torn apart or burned, claiming the lives of an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 bees, according to Steven Brackmann, president of the Brazoria County Beekeepers Association (BCBA).
Brackmann told KTRK:
“It takes a long time to establish a colony. It can take a year to get a full one, but the queens were probably killed, which means those that survived have nowhere to go.
Tomatoes, squash, watermelons, bees pollinate those. So if bees don’t pollinate those, you get zero vegetables, we would see next to nothing in the vegetable stores.”
The region surrounding Alvin, Texas, is popular among beekeepers from over the United States because of the prevalence of Chinese tallow trees.
In a Facebook post describing the crime, the BCBA said:
“It’s bad enough to think in today’s world this would happen but dumping them over and then setting fire to them is beyond comprehension … I broke down in tears when I saw a floating brood frame in the water with bees still caring for the brood.”
Bee farmer Dane Beito sells lotion, candles, and honey. He told local reporters that even the surviving hives will likely be lost. He also noted that whoever destroyed the bees knew something about them.
“It really is unbelievable what took place. Hopefully somebody shows up somewhere that’s pretty stung up, but at nighttime, bees don’t fly like they do during the day, they stay pretty close.”
A Brazoria County deputy discovered the crime during a routine patrol when he observed a fire from a distance. While he was able to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher, the damage was already done.
Investigators are now looking into who committed the crime, which falls under the categories of felony criminal mischief and a state jail felony of arson, both of which carry up to $10,000 in fines and anywhere from six months to two years imprisonment.
The Brazoria County Beekeepers Association, which has over 300 members, is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone willing to turn in the culprit.
The group is also raising money for members who may face financial devastation due to their losses, including one member who is likely to lose all of the honey he planned to sell at upcoming farmers markets. The group has already raised $16,776 through Facebook.
The senseless incident comes as bees face a crisis of global proportions.
Government agencies like the EPA and the scientific community, in general, have been sounding the alarm in recent years over Colony Collapse Disorder—a situation many fear is an existential threat to bee populations around the globe. Studies have largely blamed the overuse of toxic pesticides called neonicotinoids for the crisis, among other factors.
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