Who Deliberately Runs Over Bee Hives?

Sometimes you hear about bored teenagers trashing bee hives by deliberately throwing rocks at them or gleefully tipping them over.

But a truck driver who deliberately plows through a bee yard on private property and crushes 40 colonies?

That's unreal. 

But that's what happened last week to bee scientist Caroline Yelle, owner of Pope Canyon Queens, LLC, Winters. Under cover of darkness, a truck driver drove over and destroyed her bee hives, located in a remote rural orchard outside the community. 

To try to recoup her loss, her friends urged her to post a Go Fund Me page. It's now online at https://gofund.me/d3422c15 with a goal of $3000. 

Yelle is one of the nation's few women-owned queen bee breeder businesses; she established the business in 2013 at age 25.  A native of Canada, she mainly breeds Carniolans, Apis mellifera carnica, a subspecies of the western honey bee and "a hybrid that we selected in Canada and we reproduce here in California for stronger genes." She keeps bees in Winters, Vacaville and Napa.

Her mission, as posted on her Pope Canyon Queens website "is to improve the genetic quality of queen bees available to commercial breeders in North America by combining exceptional knowledge and expertise with robust genetics. Our breeding program is pioneering bee genetics through specialized selection, genetic diversification and high quality nutrition. Our process ensures that queens produced through our breeding program breed offspring which are better able to defend themselves against the many killers of today's bee population; mites, viruses, bacteria, pesticides, commercial beekeeping stresses, pollution, depleting floral diversity, and our world's ever-changing ecosystems. The decline in the world's bee population is unprecedented, making our work urgently necessary. We are rising to the challenge and breeding a better tomorrow." 

“I have dedicated my life since I'm 16 years old to beekeeping and helping the community by choosing every day to help save our pollinators,” Yelle wrote on the Go Fund Me page. 

The truck driver deliberately killed thousands of her bees “just for the sake of it, on private property." She scooped up dead bees, broken boxes, empty cans of beer,  hard liquor and energy drinks, and other trash the vandals left behind. 

The donations won't replace the bees that died that day, but “your contributions could help us to replace the boxes and set us up to replace the colonies,” she noted. If donations exceed the $3000 goal, Pope Valley Queens "will be putting all your donations toward our queen breeding program to help us developing more tools and resources for the bees.”

Do people really care about bees? The deliberate killing of such livestock as sheep, cattle or goats would have drawn much more ire. But bees, too, are livestock. And one-third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees.

The deliberate destruction of someone's livelihood drew irate comments, and rightfully so, on the Facebook page, Winters Community Info and Tips. Some addressed the importance of bees. Wrote one person: "I think our community knows very well how important bees are and I'm so sorry to hear what happened to yours. I hope police will find the culprits and you will at least be reimbursed for your losses. In this case we all lose!"

This is not Caroline Yelle's first major bee loss. On Aug. 19, 2020, Yelle, then 28, lost 500 hives when the lightning-sparked Hennessey Fire swept through rural Vacaville, destroying the home she lived in on Quail Valley Road, Vacaville, as well as most of her business. 

Yelle is a close associate of bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey of Washington State University, former manager of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis; and bee breeder-geneticist Kim Fondrk, retired from the Laidlaw facility, UC Davis.  

Yelle and Cobey talk about bees on Civil Eats:  https://civileats.com/2022/04/20/civil-eats-tv-let-them-bee/