A Rossland family says it’s devastated after someone broke into their yard and poisoned a beehive in what looks like a wanton act of cruelty.
Alicia Graham says the family came home after being away last weekend to find thousands of dead bees scattered around their back yard.
“My daughter went out on the deck, and said ‘Why are there honey bees dead on the deck?’” she told the Rossland News. “‘And why are there honey bees dead all over?’
“And on the front entrance of the hive, it looked like it was a pile of black rocks. They had massed into a ball.”
Checking around their home, Graham says it looked like someone had broken into their property to steal from them, and came across a can of industrial-strength insecticide. She says it looks like they then went deliberately over to the beehive to kill the bees.
“There was a hole punched in the front of the hive. They kicked it or swung something at it, so that the hive was askew on its palette,” she says. “And then they didn’t take the cover off, but they sprayed inside and all around.”
Family of beekeepers
But the bees meant so much more to the family than just a fun hobby.
The Grahams are fifth-generation beekeepers. Graham’s son Jack Gray showed the same love for bees that his ancestors have, and the hive was a gift to him from his 99-year-old great-grandfather, who used to run an apiary.
“Jack’s been obsessed with bees for so long, this year, after two years of asking, he turned 13 and his great-grandfather drove a hive out from Alberta,” says Graham. “He brought the nuc [nuclear colony, the ‘seed’ for a beehive] here from Grand Forks.”
Jack’s great-grandfather helped the youth set up the hive in the family’s backyard only two weeks ago.
She says she had the support of her neighbours to install the hive — there are other beehives in the neighbourhood — and thinks this was a random act of cruelty by the people who broke into her property.
“They found heavy-duty wasp spray,” she says. “They were in there for something else, and then saw the spray, and decided that’s what they wanted to do with it.”
Now Graham says she doesn’t know what will become of the hive.
While several thousand bees survived the attack, including the queen, it’s not known how much of the hive itself has been contaminated by the poison.
She said on Monday the bees are starting to fly in and out of the hive again, but they are flying “wonky.”
“A lot of them are still dying, but they’re not dying and turning black,” she says. “But they are landing on the ground and I can’t get the poison off the ground.”
Certainly this year’s honey production will have to be thrown out, and the fate of the colony is in the air.
The vandals took pains to ensure the biggest possible mess, as the entire backyard is contaminated now, she says.
“When I went back there, I could immediately smell it,” she says. There’s a hundred feet of our backyard that they have just doused in poison. We can’t have the kids back there. We can’t have the dogs back there. Our yard is unusable.
“I started shouting, ‘somebody did this, somebody poisoned them.’”
The worst part is her son’s reaction to the attack.
“He’s devastated, he’s beside himself,” he says. “Now he’s kind of resigned to the fact that they are all going to die, or that they’ll be genetically not well-off.
“When he saw them writhing, he was hysterical. He can’t stand to see them in pain. He was panicked. That’s the hardest thing, looking at his face.”
She says Jack slept downstairs Sunday night to see if anyone was coming in the backyard.
Graham says they’re not sure they can afford to replace the bees or the hive — between the gift of the hive, and the bees, it’s over $1,000 — so it’s not certain yet what will happen.
Neighbours have offered to rebuild part of the hive, so the bees won’t be tracking more poison into the colony.
But she knows what to think of the people who did it.
“They’re just awful, malicious persons,” she says. “They kicked the hive, sprayed it, and stole from us.”
“I don’t get it, there’s nothing I get about this.”
Since Graham told her story on social media, the family’s received an outpouring of support and offers to help. She says she’s grateful for the community’s response.
Jack’s great grandfather, back in Lethbridge, still hasn’t been told of the crime.