In Sioux City, Iowa, two boys aged 12 and 13 years old have been charged with killing a half-million bees after they allegedly vandalized a honey farm, knocking over hives and exposing the bees to deadly winter temperatures. As both suspects are minors, their names have not been released.
However, police announced last Wednesday that the boys have been arrested. They face charges of criminal mischief, agricultural animal facilities offences, and burglary. According to The Sioux City Journal, all of the offences are considered felonies. The charges could result in fines totalling $10,000 in addition to 10 years of jail time, but as a result of their ages, the case will likely be adjudicated in juvenile court.
Justin Engelhardt, who owns the Wild Hill Honey farm with his wife Tori Engelhardt spoke to the newspaper last month when the vandalism occurred. They stated, “They [the two boys] knocked over every single hive, killing all the bees. They wiped us out completely.” They added, “They broke into our shed, they took all our equipment out and threw it out in the snow, smashed what they could.” The couple called the crime “completely senseless”.
After the destruction took place, a friend of the Engelhardt’s set up a GoFundMe page in order to raise enough money to restore their farm. The page garnered over $30,000 in donations, however, the couple says that is equal to about half of the amount they will need to pay in order to restart their business.
In discussing the donations they received, Justin Engelhardt says, “It was amazing and we are deeply grateful for all of the contributions from the people of Sioux City and people around the country […] It’s thanks to those contributions that we’ll be able to rebuild in the spring.” He added, “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.”
The agricultural animal facilities charge has been on the books in Iowa since 1991 as a safety measure to safeguard ecosystems and deter criminal damage. However, the Woodbury County assistant attorney, Mark Campbell, stated in the Journal that he could not recollect a single case in his jurisdiction where it had been put into effect.
In recent years, scientists have been concerned over the ever-growing die-off of pollinating honeybees. NPR reported last year that “Researchers have scrambled to figure out what’s killing the bees and have identified some factors including pesticides aimed at killing insects, reduced forage plants, and bee mites and other diseases.”
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