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Buzz off: beekeeper loses 23 hives to acts of vandalism

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT— Ken Ensminger moves pallets of the bee hives that remain at one of his hive sites onto his trailer after someone on a four-wheeler knocked over 12 of the 28 hives Wednesday. Ensminger said he was moving the bees to a new location more than three miles away to not lose anymore of his hives to vandalism.

VIDALIA — When a truck carrying millions of bees dumped over in a vehicle accident last year, beekeeper Ken Ensminger barely lost any bees. This year, however, he’s lost 23 hives worth.

It started in December, when someone took the lids off of 11 of his hives in the Vidalia area, leaving them open and exposed to the rain.

Then Wednesday, someone on a four-wheeler knocked over 12 more hives, leaving behind only tracks and 3 million dead bees. Ensminger said he knows of other beekeepers who have also had their bee boxes damaged in recent months.

Maybe it was stupid vandalism. Maybe it was an attempt at honey theft. Maybe it was just kids seeking a thrill.

But one thing it is for certain, Ensminger said, is unsafe.

“I don’t know if they call it having fun or what, but it’s dangerous if somebody is allergic to bees,” he said.

“I don’t even work my bees without a bee suit. They’re in real danger of getting stung.”

Even beyond the immediate economic damage — each dead bee box is worth a $250 investment, not counting the potential profit lost from it — such reckless behavior could resonate throughout the honey industry.

Some boxes in the Vidalia area are used specifically for growing queen bees for honey producers A.H. Meyer and Sons. Those queen bees are shipped across the country, ending up in South Dakota. The loss of 40,000 queen bees would certainly affect A.H. Meyer’s business, Ensminger said.

After counting his losses Wednesday, Ensminger said he was moving his damaged beehives to another area and would do his best to make sure people didn’t know where his other boxes were.

“The bees I lost, that was a total loss for this complete year,” he said.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Bees swarm a tree after becoming homeless when their hive was damaged by someone driving by on a four-wheeler and knocking them over.

“You can’t take some bees and put them in a box and expect them to make honey. They have to grow there.”

“It is just sad to see somebody destroy that much.”