Thousands of bees murdered at Hayes Valley Farm


Very sad news about a massive honey bee crime at Hayes Valley Farm: apparently, sometime between the late afternoons of July 19 and July 20, someone sprayed pesticide into two San Francisco Bee-Cause (SFBC) honey bee colonies at Hayes Valley Farm (HVF) and tried to do the same to a third, smaller colony, according to Karen Peteros, SFBC’s bee keeper.

Peteros reports that thousands of bees died immediately or rushed for air in the first two hives, blocking the entrance and making escape impossible. And that he third colony, maintained by Chris Burley, lost 60-70 percent of its members.

 “The distinct scent of household pesticide could be smelled around the entrance and ventilation holes of the SFBC hives, and around the piles of dead bees,” Peteros writes. “ A sample of the residue from around the ventilation holes and a sampling of the dead bees have been preserved for analysis.  A police report has been filed.”

She also reports that each of the two exterminated colonies was healthy and thriving and likely consisted of 60,000-100,000 individuals, and was set to produce 20-30 medium frames of honey which HVF planned to sell to support the work of SFBC.

It’s hard to imagine what was going through the perpetrator(s)’ heads. But whatever their motive, it seems there is a need for more education about bees in general and the vital role they play in pollination in particular—a role that helps produce one third of the world’s food supply.

Unlike wasps, which prey on spiders and ladybugs and other insects and have the ability to sting multiple times, bees are entirely vegetarian, a switch their ancestors made back in the great angiosperm explosion some 80 million years ago that produced our modern-day flowers. That switch means bees live on and raise their brood entirely from pollen (also known as bee bread) and nectar, and are unlikely to sting you, unless you approach their hives. (Could be the folks responsible for this massacre got stung quite a few times in the process of spraying all these bees, so that could be a helpful clue in tracking them down.)

But most people consistently confuse wasps, which are hairless and can sting multiple times, with bees, which are fuzzy and can only sting once, and then die, unless they happen to be the queen bee, which can sting many times.
A recent example of the general ignorance about bees were July 2 news reports that folks had been stung by “bees” at the Alameda County Fair’s fireworks show. It turned out that the insects were in fact yellow jackets, which are a type of wasp. But national news outlets repeatedly reported that bees were to blame.

Thousands of dead bees litter ground at HVF

Thousands of dead bees litter the ground at Hayes Valley Farm



You can watch a video I made about the bees of Hayes Valley Farm a month ago here:

They really were beautiful creatures and this news is devastating.

Hopefully we can now begin a conversation that can address unwarranted fears and prejudices, and prevent another occurrence of such a tragic act.

Posted by Guest Mark McQ. on Jul. 22, 2010 @ 11:45 am

Thanks for the video post Mark McQ. Yes, hopefully a more informed conversation about bees and their beauty and vital role in our ecosystems can occur.

Posted by sarah on Jul. 22, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

Whoever did this probably does not know that bees are the primary way that plants of the world reproduce, that there is a shortage of bees worldwide, and that if there was no bees there would be no way to sustain crops for everyone to eat.

Posted by Kevin L on Jul. 22, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

I suspect you are right, Kevin. Karen Peteros, the director and co-founder of SF Bee-Cause, says the farm did receive a complaint from an individual when bee hives were first brought onto the farm, but so far there is no evidence of who exactly perpetrated this bee hate crime.

Peteros also said the farm will install video cameras, so they can capture on tape anyone who tries to do this again in the future.

But judging from the tone the farm and Peteros are striking, their response is focussed less on punishment and more on education, in the hopes that this horrible incident could have the silver lining of preventing future crimes against bees.


Posted by sarah on Jul. 22, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

They are BEES!!! Insects, bugs. "Murdered"? Please. Humans are murdered. Using the word "murdered" in this headline is inappropriate.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

Murder is killing something with selfish disregard. You can murder animals though I would agree that "meat is murder" is an idiotic statement.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

Kill all the bee and all the humans will die too......

Posted by Guest on Aug. 05, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

I'm sorry, guest, but your dismissal of this heinous crime reinforces the notion that humans are the only beings that count on this planet.

Posted by sarah on Jul. 23, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

As another commenter noted, without bees, humans would be in big trouble

Posted by sarah on Aug. 05, 2010 @ 5:42 pm