Police in Texas are searching for an unknown arsonist who broke into a bee yard and torched dozens of hives, likely killing more than half a million bees.
The incident, which took place late last week an hour south of Houston, has angered environmentalists who have shown that bees are an integral part of the ecosystem and are already in decline from industrial pesticide use.
“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,” wrote a representative for the Brazoria County Beekeepers Association on Facebook. “I broke down in tears when I saw a floating brood frame in the water with bees still caring for the brood.”
A county sheriff’s deputy first came across burning bee boxes in the apiary field in the city of Alvin early April 27. Some of the boxes had also been discarded in a nearby pond. About 20 of 24 colonies, each of which contain tens of thousands of bees, were destroyed.
The area Crime Stoppers association and the beekeepers group are offering rewards of up to US$5,000 and US$1,000 for information, respectively. More than US$13,000 has been donated through a Facebook campaign by the Beekeepers Association to raise funds for the site.
Bee populations are in decline, according to environmental researchers, largely due to insecticide use by the industrial agriculture sector. A recent study out of New England found that some species are declining by as much as 90 per cent. “Because these species are major players in crop pollination, it raises concerns about compromising the production of key crops and the food supply in general,” Sandra Rehan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of New Hampshire and senior author of the study, said in a statement last month.
Though some consider bees to be a nuisance and others fear getting stung, their contributions to agriculture are undisputed.
“We would see almost nothing in the grocery store,” said Steve Brackmann, a member of the Brazoria County Beekeepers where the hives were torched last month. “Tomatoes need bumblebees to pollinate those. Your squash, your watermelon, all those require bees. If the bees don’t pollinate those, you’ll get zero vegetables.”
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