Vandals Kill Hundreds of Thousands of Honey Bees

Because it gets too chilly for them at their home in California’s Central Valley, 200,000 honey bees spend each winter on the property of Mike Hickenbottom, who lives in Prunedale, a little coastal town about 100 miles south of San Francisco.

But 200,000 of those honey bees didn’t survive the winter this year, and it wasn’t because of cold weather, wildfires or earthquakes. On the night of January 13, someone trespassed onto Hickenbottom’s property, toppled over the 100 hives, and then doused them with diesel fuel.

Who could have done something so cruel? Hickenbottom thinks it may have been his neighbors, who have complained in the past about the bees flying freely on his property. But Hickenbottom said the Italian and Russian honey bees were not aggressive. “I go up around the bee boxes without any protective clothing on,” he told KSBW. “I’ve never been stung.”

Beekeeper Alfonzo Perez leases the bees on Hickenbottom’s property to California almond farmers, who use them to pollinate their trees. Not only did the honey bees lose their lives, but Perez lost over $50,000 in income due to their deaths. Hickenbottom started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money to buy beehives and honey bees.

Honey bees have increasingly become the victims of criminals, but in most cases it’s thieves who steal them to make money off the soaring price of honey. “It doesn’t matter if it’s beekeeping or meth, this is just the new gold rush,” Laurence Burkin, apiarist manager of a honey company in New Zealand, said last year. About 400 hives were stolen in that country over a six-month period in 2016.

Bees have also been stolen to make money by selling them to almond farmers. In the largest case of its kind in U.S. history, last year a California beekeeper was suspected of stealing 2,500 hives that were worth nearly $1 million.

But let’s hope the cold-blooded killing of hundreds of thousands of honey bees is not a horrible new crime trend. In a chilling coincidence, just two weeks before the 200,000 California bees were killed, two boys killed half a million bees when they destroyed all the hives belonging to a honey business in Sioux City, Iowa.

“They knocked over every single hive, killing all the bees. They wiped us out completely,” Justin Engelhardt, who owns Wild Hill Honey with his wife, Tori, told the Globe Gazette. “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.”

The 12-year-old and 13-year-old, who were not identified because they’re juveniles, have been charged with three felonies: first-degree criminal mischief, agricultural animal facilities offenses and third-degree burglary. They were also charged with misdemeanor possession of burglar’s tools.

Thanks to generous donations, Justin and Tori Englehardt, the owners of Wild Hill Honey, will be able to buy new hives and honey bees – but those 500,000 lives lost are irreplaceable.

Deputies with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office are investigating the California bee murders. No arrests have yet been made. Please sign and share this petition urging the bee killer(s) to be charged with similar felonies — and also with felony animal cruelty.

Photo credit: PollyDot

110 comments

Marie W
Marie W29 days ago

thanks

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Sonia M

I love honeybees and beekeeping.This is so sad and disgusting.Petition alredy signed,thanks for sharing

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Michelle Spradley
Michelle Spradley6 months ago

Maybe juveniles would be less likely to commit crimes, heinous or otherwise, if we stopped protecting their identity "because they are children". If you can do the crime, you can do the time. If their parents do not like it, then they should do a better job of parenting their children to keep them from committing crimes.

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R6 months ago

They are not children!! No polite comment... :( Petition signed/shared.

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Lyn V
Lyn V6 months ago

Hello Karen Hanson, sadly today's children are not punished as we were as children. Far too many 'do gooders' having their say on how to discipline youngsters now day's have created far too many 'little asshole' brats who seem to think they can do as and what they feel and whenever they feel and the sad thing is when they do eventually grow up they have no boundary's to assure they fit in to the real world.

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Ruth R
Ruth R6 months ago

Thank You.

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Karin Holstein
Karin Holstein6 months ago

They need to be punished and educated about bees and how they are dying out. If kids had activities to do then they would not be getting themselves into mischief and negative actions. What happened to boys and girls clubs, the police athletic league, YM and YWCA and whatever else used to exist?

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Jess B
Jess B6 months ago

Hopefully they're punished.

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner6 months ago

This just proves that psychotic humans are born that way. The human psychos are the ones trying to kill the planet. They should be weeded out from the human race.

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Daniela M
Daniela M6 months ago

Petition signed and wonderful to see how people have come together to support and encourage and even donate to the recovery of Wild Hill Honey! Beautiful to see. We need bees more than ever! They are so sweet; how someone could do this is just beyond me...

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