The destruction of six beehives and two greenhouses set social media abuzz Friday, as reports of a rampage at Burlington’s Intervale Center drew outrage and sympathy from local agriculture supporters.
The razing, first reported by WCAX, seems to have been caused by a stolen vehicle that was later found parked on a Burlington street, said Bill Mares, a co-owner of the beehives.
Farmers at the Intervale discovered car parts near where the hives were kept that matched the badly damaged vehicle, Mares said.
Mares and one of his beekeeping partners, Ron Hernandez, first heard about the wreckage from other farmers at the Intervale Wednesday afternoon. They have since cleaned up the mess, Mares said.
After surveying the scene, Mares believes the vehicle drove through a fence surrounding the farm and rammed into the hives and the greenhouses, before exiting through a different part of the fence, he said.
While beehives are sometimes targeted by predators other than stolen vehicles, such as bears, an intruder from the wild would have tried to steal the bees’ honey instead of demolishing the hives, Mares said.
“This was just absolute, total, random destruction,” Mares told VTDigger.
At this time of year, the Intervale bees — roughly 150,000 to 160,000 strong — would not have put up much of a fight against an attacker, he said. With a barren landscape, they spend the winter months clumped together, eating the honey they made in warmer weather.
While they don’t hibernate, bees’ rates of metabolism slow down in the winter so they can last for months without venturing from the hive, Mares said. As a result, he estimates that any bee that survived the initial impact died within six hours of losing its shelter.
After seeing media reports about the incident, former City Councilor Ed Adrian launched a GoFundMe page for the beekeepers.
“That picture of the beehives really bummed me out,” Adrian told VTDigger.
“It’s not just about making them whole,” he said of his effort. “It’s about showing that the community supports urban agriculture.”
Mares, who said the philanthropic gesture “takes my breath away,” plans to give the money to the Intervale Center’s recovery fund, which can then allocate money to the beekeepers and other farmers who were impacted by the incident.
As of Friday afternoon, the GoFundMe effort had exceeded its goal of $5,000.
Burlington police were not able to provide a formal report of the incident by Friday afternoon, and a message left for the officer investigating the incident was not returned.
Disclosure: Bill Mares is a board member of the Vermont Journalism Trust, the parent organization of VTDigger.
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