Bees: Targeted and Poisoned!

Three million bees were apparently poisoned. The RCMP is investigating. A commercial beekeeper with about 1,200 colonies now has fewer than a thousand. The Winnipeg Free Press says that Manitoba beekeeper Jason Loewen suffered a “targeted attack.” Beekeeper Loewen told the press, “If there was a disease, or if farmers had sprayed pesticide, those bees would’ve all been hit.” Instead, apparently random colonies within four bee yards were attacked and residue was found on the boxes and lids. The hives are being tested to determine what sort of poison was used. Loewen lost 60 hives and another 40 were badly weakened.

Dispute Resolution Centre

Who kills bees? Other beekeepers, usually. Although, of course, I have no idea who would have wrecked Mr Loewen’s bees, in other cases where honey beehives have been systematically ruined, the culprit often turned out to be other beekeepers. When I kept bees in Florida, it occasionally happened that big commercial outfits with dozens of outyards competed with other similar outfits for bee locations. Apiaries are often hard to get. If one fellow is doing just fine with his hives and someone else (usually from a northern state) suddenly appeared with a couple thousand hives, the first beekeeper would sometimes lose control of his rationality and damage the newcomer’s property. A cheap way of hurting the other man’s bees was to enter unguarded apiaries at night, dislodge lids, and dump gasoline from a jerry can into each cluster of bees. (I suppose you’d want to do this without lighting a smoker.) Cruel, mean, and effective. And one way to find oneself in the county jail. I was never targeted like that – I didn’t have enough hives to make anyone nervous, but I knew people who were hit.

In the Manitoba case, reported to the police a couple of days ago, it is hard to imagine that the damage was done by a competing beekeeper. It is almost impossible to over-graze western Canada’s flora and farmers usually are eager to have beekeepers on their land, so fights over forage and locations shouldn’t exist. Besides, this is Canada. Such disputes are supposed to be settled over coffee at the village cafe. Not in the cover of darkness, jerry can in hand, eh?

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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