Bees sort of get a bad rap. With their penchant for painfully stinging just about anyone who dares to venture near their hive, they haven’t exactly gained the trust of other creatures. It’s safe to say that most people have a hard time feeling anything positive for them. But in reality, bees are an essential part of the ecosystem.
Sadly, in recent years, they’ve begun to mysteriously die off. So when two young boys from Sioux City, Iowa, recently did something horrific to 500,000 bees on a local farm, the community was, needless to say, abuzz—and furious.
Bees might have a reputation for their painful stings, but they’re really quite beneficial to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Sadly, bees all over the world have been mysteriously dying off for years. Facing possible extinction, every bee lost is a major hit to the overall population, something beekeepers Justin and Tori Englehardt know all too well.
As the owners of Wild Hill Honey, a bee farm in Sioux City, Iowa, Justin and Tori’s livelihoods depend upon the wellbeing of said bees. None of this was enough to stop a true tragedy from happening at their farm, however.
Recently, the couple awoke on a cold winter morning to check on their honey bees—and they were horrified by what they saw when they stepped outside. Their 50 beehives had been violently knocked down and strewn across their 18-acre property.
It was already too late—the damage was done. In total, upwards of 500,000 honey bees were killed. Justin and Tori were heartbroken and desperate to find out who could’ve been responsible for this thoughtlessly cruel act.
Obviously, the death of half a million honey bees is a tragic loss. With the community having decreased at a rate of 30 percent each year for the past several years, losing that many in one fell swoop would have lasting effects on the local ecosystem.
As diligent, hard workers, the Englehardts were devastated by the loss. “They knocked over every single hive, killing all the bees. They wiped us out completely,” Justin explained to reporters about the aftermath of the incident.
“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,” Justin continued.
Unfortunately, with bees facing extinction, this wasn’t an issue that could be so easily fixed. To make matters even worse for the Englehardts, insurance companies don’t cover bees, leaving them with little recourse for recouping the $60,000 in damages. Thankfully, some folks were ready to help out…
In a last ditch effort to regain some of the funds necessary to reopen their bee farm, the couple set up a GoFundme page to raise money. Inspiringly, the loving community rallied around them and helped raise more than $30,000!
With the help of the community, the Englehardts hoped to reopen their farm in the coming season. “It’s thanks to those contributions that we’ll be able to rebuild in the spring,” Justin explained in an interview.
“We cannot adequately express how grateful we are to everyone who has sent kind words and to those willing to help us out. It’s been overwhelming,” the couple wrote in a post on Facebook. “We had no idea our plea for help … was going to travel so far and wide.”
“We are deeply moved by your compassion. Between the contributions and the equipment we were able to salvage, our needs have been met,” Justin concluded on the GoFundMe page. Still, they were hoping that those responsible for this crime would be brought to justice…
Thankfully, the Englehardts were in luck. Soon, they learned that the two culprits who’d allegedly committed the crime had been caught by local authorities, despite there being no witnesses.
Both still juveniles at the ages of 12 and 13, authorities weren’t able to give the names of those responsible. They did, however, charge them with criminal mischief in the first degree. That wasn’t all, though…
Whether if they knew of the seriousness of their crime or not, the two minors were also facing charges of burglary in the third degree, possession of burglar’s tools, animal facilities offenses, and an aggravated misdemeanor.
In total, these felony offenses carried a stiff penalty of up to 10 years in prison, as well as an additional fine of up to $10,000. This maximum punishment was considered unlikely, however, as the offenders were still minors.
Furthermore, the minors might have lucked out, as the prosecution for agricultural animal facilities in Iowa was said to be extremely rare. “I can’t think of any case where we’ve had prosecution in Woodbury County—I may be wrong, but I don’t recall anything,” said Mark Campbell, the county assistant attorney.
Despite the potential outcome, the Englehardts were just happy the people who committed the crimes were caught when they were. They assumed it’d eventually be adjudicated in a local juvenile court, and that justice would be served.
If nothing else, they were happy that this case brought the honey bee’s plight into focus. “Bees are critical and people are conscious of the fact that bees are having a hard time right now and facing some real challenges,” Justin pointed out.
If bees continue to die off at such an alarming rate, it would be a tragic blow to the ecosystem. Hopefully others will learn how integral they are to the flow of nature, so the Englehardts’ bees didn’t die in vain…
What a heartbreaking thing to have happen, especially with honey bees possibly facing future extinction. Let’s just hope these kids and others will learn their importance!
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