Two minors have been charged with criminal mischief after killing more than a half million bees and tearing apart a honey business last month in Iowa.
The owners of the Wild Hill Honey business in Sioux City, Iowa, claim that two boys, ages 12 and 13, went on a senseless rampage through their business, destroying 50 hives and vandalizing equipment.
Tragic Vandalism in Sioux City. Justin and Tori Engelhardt, the owners of Wild Hill Honey, fear that vandals may have cost the couple their business after at least 500,000 bees were killed. If you would l... https://t.co/5jXKsBB8ak pic.twitter.com/4kiG4gNTbQ— Just Bee Friendly (@justbeefriendly) January 3, 2018
"They knocked over every single hive, killing all the bees. They wiped us out completely," Justin Engelhardt, co-owner of Wild Hill, explained in an interview. "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 boys have been charged with three felonies: criminal mischief in the first degree; agricultural animal facilities offenses; and burglary in the third degree, in addition to an aggravated misdemeanor: possession of burglar's tools. They may face penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of $10,000.
Vandals killed at least half a million bees and caused nearly $50,000 worth of damage at this family farm pic.twitter.com/x3afJaD0YB— NowThis (@nowthisnews) December 29, 2017
Engelhardt and his co-owner, Tori Engelhardt, who originally feared that the destruction would put them out of business, said they are determined to rebuild their honey farm and fix the vandal damage, which is estimated to cost roughly $60,000. The damage is not being covered by the Engelhardt's insurance, so they've started multiple fundraising campaigns, including a GoFundMe page.
Damage aside, the most devastating aspect of the destruction came from the beehives. The two juveniles smashed and knocked them over, exposing hundreds of thousands of bees to the bitter cold snow, a climate bees cannot survive.
"All of the beehives on the honey farm were destroyed, and approximately 500,000 bees perished in the frigid temperatures," the Sioux City police said in a statement.
Discussion surrounding bees and their survival escalated last year when it was announced that bees were officially endangered in the United States. It was the first time the flying insect had made its appearance on the list, due to an 87 percent decline in the species population since the late 1990s.
While people tend to shriek and hide when the yellow and black buzzers make an appearance, the value of bees are unparalleled, as without them, our parks, forests, meadows, shrubs, and many food sources would simply not survive.
People became aware of the honey bee population's struggle to survive, prompting the #savethebees movement, which gained strength and popularity across the United States.
"Bees are critical, and people are conscious of the fact that bees are having a hard time right now and facing some real challenges," Engelhardt said.
Hope everyone had a great day! Except the people who killed 500,000 bees in Sioux City. I hope they had an awful day.— darbs (@Darbyjruss) January 15, 2018
Glad these A**Holes were caught! What a horrible thing they did. Thankful this business will be able to start anew. https://t.co/020TpdYpTO— ??Sunflower Agape?? (@AvasMomMe) January 17, 2018
It's unclear what prompted the two boys to go onto the property and wreak havoc on the business, but to do something so destructive is completely senseless. What they did is so much more than breaking tool; they killed insects that are already at risk of extinction, destroyed the Engelhardt's farm, and ultimately harmed themselves as they're now facing juvenile prison and a hefty fee.
Thankfully, the Engelhardts have been able to raise enough money to restart their business come spring after their GoFundMe brought in over $30,000 from 838 people in just a few days.
"It was amazing and we are deeply grateful for all of the contributions from the people of Sioux City and people around the country," Engelhardt said. "It's thanks to those contribution that we'll be able to rebuild in the spring. We've already made arrangements to get some hives down south, and we'll bring them up in the spring and we'll be right back to where we were."