Beehives were deliberately set on fire at a bee yard in Brazoria County, Texas, on the weekend, killing half a million bees in an act described as “beyond comprehension”.
Volunteers discovered the wreckage on the morning of Saturday, 27 April.
“Someone did major damage to a BCBA Bee Yard in Alvin last night,” wrote the Brazoria County Beekeepers Association in a Facebook post.
“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.”
Blackened hives had been strewn across the yard, still burning, with one brood frame floating in a nearby lake, bees still clinging to it and trying to care for the eggs. Nearly 20 hives were destroyed, each containing around 30,000 bees, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Honey bees aren’t actually endangered, but in the last century, the world has seen a worrying decline. In the US, there were 5.9 million honey-producing colonies in 1947. This fell to 4.5 million by 1980, and 2.44 million by 2008.
Since then, there has been a slight uptick – in 2017, there were 2.67 million. Nevertheless, pollinators like bees are absolutely vital to Earth ecosystems, and scientists around the world have been increasingly concerned about what is being called Colony Collapse Disorder.
In this context, hive vandalism is even more baffling – yet it keeps occurring. Just six months ago, vandals destroyed hives in Iowa, killing thousands of bees. An earlier incident in January 2018 left 200,000 bees dead in California, and two teen boys killed 500,000 bees in Iowa in December 2017.
Those boys were charged with three felonies: Criminal Mischief, Agricultural and Animal Facilities Offences, and Burglary.
Felony Arson and Criminal Mischief charges are on the table for whoever vandalised the Brazoria County hive.
Police are currently searching for a suspect, and a reward is being offered for any information that will least to an arrest and conviction.