Two boys are facing felony charges after vandalism at an Iowa honey farm killed 500,000 bees, according to police.
Police say the boys, ages 12 and 13, wrecked equipment and knocked over 50 hives at the Wild Hill Honey farm in Sioux City last month. All of the bees — at least half a million — died in the snow.
Owners Justin and Tori Englehardt found the dead bees when they went to clear snow off the hives on their 18-acre property. "We found complete destruction of our hives and supply shed," they wrote on their Facebook page.
"They knocked over every single hive, killing all the bees. They wiped us out completely," Justin Engelhardt told The Sioux City Journal. "They broke into our shed, they took all our equipment out and threw it out in the snow, smashed what they could. Doesn't look like anything was stolen; everything was just vandalized or destroyed.
He called the crime "completely senseless." The loss was estimated at $60,000.
The devastation was so complete that the couple feared they couldn't afford to revive the six-year-old operation. The business wasn't insured; bee operations usually can't get insurance, according to Engelhardt.
But a friend of the Engelhardts started a GoFundMe page that quickly raised more than $30,000 in donations. They now plan to rebuild.
"We cannot adequately express how grateful we are to everyone who has sent kind words and to those willing to help us out. It's been overwhelming," the couple wrote on their Facebook page. "We had no idea our plea for help with identifying the vandals was going to travel so far and wide. People have been so generous, we will definitely be able to bring our bee sanctuary back to its former glory. Thank you to everyone for your support and understanding."
Engelhardt believes the response was so overwhelming because people care about honeybees and their struggle for survival.
"Bees are critical and people are conscious of the fact that bees are having a hard time right now and facing some real challenges," Englehardt told The Sioux City Journal.
The boys face three felony charges for criminal mischief, agricultural animal facilities offenses and burglary, according to a news release by the Sioux City Police Department. The boys are not being named because they are minors. Police thanked the public for tips that helped in the investigation.