Vt. Beekeepers Bounce Back After Destructive Driver Kills 150,000+ Bees

Someone on an apparent off-road joyride destroyed a row of beehives in January

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Three beekeepers are bouncing back from a maddening situation earlier this year — which saw well over 100,000 innocent honeybees killed in a senseless act of destruction in Burlington, Vermont.

"They’re healthy, they’ve come from good homes, and now it’s our job to keep them healthy and productive," beekeeper Bill Mares said of the new bees that replaced those lost in a still-unsolved crime in mid-January.

As NECN & NBC10 Boston reported on January 14, the driver of a GMC pickup truck, which was later found abandoned, plowed right through a row of hives in what the beekeepers figured was some sort of off-road joyride.

The crash wrecked the boxes, exposing their fragile inhabitants to deadly cold — killing an estimated 150,000-160,000 pollinators.

A dead honeybee in the snow after vandalism across Vermont farmlands.

"Without them, we’re in big trouble," beekeeper Ron Hernandez said in the January news report, noting how important bees are to the ecosystem and to agriculture. 

Hernandez vowed four months ago to rebuild the operation, which sells honey under the label BTV Honey at Burlington-area retailers including City Market.

Consider that vow a promise kept, with new bees now buzzing in and out of their hives in Burlington’s Intervale.

"We were overwhelmed by the generosity," Mares told NECN & NBC10 Boston, referring to more than $17,000 in donations that poured in after news spread of that huge number of bee deaths.

Those contributions, which came from honey customers and even total strangers, allowed the beekeepers to buy new colonies which the BTV Honey team installed over the last several days. The cash gifts also covered repair costs to greenhouses at the neighboring Intervale Community Farm — which were also ruined in that reckless ride.

A team was rebuilding a greenhouse Tuesday at the Intervale Community Farm.

"People who heard about it had a lot of empathy for the bees and for the circumstances and did an incredible job raising money in the community," said beekeeper Deborah Rubin, who thanked donors to the online fundraising effort.

Even with the replacement bees, BTV Honey does expect its normal 1,200-pound crop to decline somewhat this year. Mares said he and his partners hope to collect 1,000 pounds of honey, noting that the operation should bounce back to typical levels in 2023.

As for a suspect, the beekeepers said Burlington police have assured them they have some strong evidence and haven’t given up on the investigation.

"Hopefully, the people who did this will have their bad karma come visit them someday, and hopefully not come visit us again," Hernandez said.

Honey from the new colonies of bees should be available to purchase in mid to late summer, Rubin said.

A new hive of bees.
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