“We’re looking at 500,000 to 600,000 (bees) that have been destroyed out of that environment,” says a local beekeeper.
Bees serve a vital role as pollinators, yet the insects are being threatened across much of the world. They are facing existential threats from habitat loss, insecticides, genetically modified plants and climate change.
Add wanton destruction, too, to that list.
To wit: in a single case of suspected arson more than half a million bees perished near Houston Texas when numerous beehives were either torched or dumped in a nearby stream.
Two dozen colonies of bees were raised in a rural area, and they are all gone now in one fell swoop. “We’re looking at 500,000 to 600,000 (bees) that have been destroyed out of that environment,” lamented Steve Brackman, who is president of a local beekeepers’ organization.
“I was just in shock that somebody would actually do that,” Brackman said. “That’s what we don’t understand.”
The identity of the perpetrator or perpetrators remains unknown. It could have been a local who took umbrage at the presence of bees in the area. “Was someone just creating mischief for no other reason than to destroy something?” a local investigator theorized. “Or did someone have an ax to grind with someone? Could it be another beekeeper? There are a lot of different avenues that it could take.”
Yet ultimately the who and why of this act should be of less concern than of its outcome. Once pollinators like bees are removed from the environment, through whatever means, local agriculture and biodiversity are bound to suffer. “Tomatoes, squash, watermelons, bees pollinate those,” Brackman observed. “So if bees don’t pollinate those, you get zero vegetables, we would see next to nothing in the vegetable stores.”
Honeybees have been among the most dependable agricultural pollinators in the United States, yet over the past decades nearly half of cultivated honeybee colonies have been lost, according to the Bee Informed Partnership. A similar trend is playing out elsewhere, including the United Kingdom where honeybees and other pollinators are being battered by a variety of threats.
“Pesticides and genetically modified plants hasten the bees’ life span,” The New York Times paraphrased Brackman as explaining, “and less nutrients are brought back to the hive for the rest of the brood, which is now fed nectar and pollen infused with the chemicals.”
That is why whereas arson attacks like this can capture headlines worldwide, it’s the slow poisoning of their environment with toxins that poses the greatest threat to bees.