I’ll never understand vandalism. Theft I understand. I don’t like it, I don’t condone it, I’ve been victimized by it. But I can understand how it might sometimes happen. Vandalism, however, is strange. And stupid.
Vandalism is nothing new. The very word comes from the Vandal people, a fifth-century Germanic tribe. The Vandals sacked and looted Rome. They also allegedly defaced artwork and statuary, lending their name for all time to idiots who vandalize. When I was a kid, we experienced the occasional apiary vandalism. Someone would enter one of our bee yards at night and flip over a hive or two. I suspect there was always more than one vandal involved – there would be little joy in hive flipping (or cow tipping or Smart Car flipping) if you are out in the dark by yourself, vandalizing alone. No, I’m rather certain its a participation sport. When I kept bees in the badlands of southern Saskatchewan, my hives were vandalized just once. Three ranch boys lifted two hives from one of my yards at night, planning to drive into town to dump the bees off the back of their truck. They didn’t make it. But they learned that the cover of darkness provides the worst time to abuse bees.
With the steady decrease in crime of all sorts in North America, vandalism also seems on the decline. So I was surprised to hear that a dozen colonies were wrecked by vandals in southern Alberta, about two hours from my home. Southern Alberta is a religious, family-farm, small-town sort of place. I was dismayed to learn that idiots are in their midst – but no place has immunity from the stupid.
News reports (here and here) describe the vandalized colonies as being on pallets, pretty much ruling out hobby bees. The area is home to several big commercial operators who keep hives near hay fields and canola farms that fill the rich farmland. Twelve commercial colonies were destroyed at a loss of $9,000. That’s $750 per hive. Maybe that sounds high, but this happened at the start of the honey flow which would have brought $400 worth of honey from each hive. Replacement packages cost $150 and won’t make any money this year, but still need care, attention, and investment to build up for next season. New boxes, frames, drawn-out combs, lids, pallets and the like aren’t cheap, either. And there’s the cost of cleaning up the mess.
If the culprits are found and if I were the judge, I think I’d take away their truck, charge them $9,000, and then force them to work as commercial beekeepers so they suffer for the rest of their lives.