The hives belonged to the Brazoria County Beekeepers Association, which had 24 colonies at the site in total. The hives were discovered burning early Saturday morning by a sheriff's deputy, who extinguished the flames. Some of the bee boxes had also been tossed into a pond on the site.
"It's bad enough to think in today's world this would happen, but dumping them over and then setting fire to them is beyond comprehension," the association wrote in a Facebook post. The club said it had offered a reward for the discovery of the perpetrator and asked anyone with information to contact the sheriff's office. "I broke down in tears when I saw a floating brood frame in the water with bees still caring for the brood," the post's author added.
The incident comes at a key time of year for honeybees and beekeepers: Blooming plants have started the bees' honey flow, and the queens were laying thousands of eggs a day, association President Steven Brackman told The New York Times.
Sam Degelia, a retired welder who earns extra money selling honey at the farmer's market, lost eight hives with around 60,000 bees each to the blaze.
"I don't want to say it's like losing a kid, but you put all your hard work and pride in it, and somebody kicks the bucket from under you," Degelia told The New York Times. "First there is the shock of losing the bees, and then you say, 'Well, there goes my honey flow.'"
In total, hives belonging to four owners were destroyed.
The fire also comes at a critical moment for honey bees overall. In 2017, U.S. beekeepers lost around 40 percent of their honey bees, 2.7 percent more than the average annual loss since 2010-2011, the Bee Informed Partnership found. Brackman told CNN that bees are declining due to the widespread use of pesticides, with potentially disastrous consequences for humans and the environment.
"Tomatoes, squash, watermelons, bees pollinate those," Brackman said. "So if bees don't pollinate those, you get zero vegetables, we would see next to nothing in the vegetable stores."
The Brazoria County Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for the arsonist, and the association is offering $1,000. It is also taking donations to help beekeepers rebuild. As of Monday, it had raised more than $10,000, the Houston Chronicle reported. The remains of four hive structures had survived the fire, but no queens or eggs have been found, The New York Times reported.
Brackman told the Houston Chronicle that he at least hoped the bees had gotten in some parting shots. If they sense a hive is being disturbed, bee colonies will come to investigate, Brackman explained.
"We're hoping that's what happened to them actually," Brackman said. "Even though those bees would have had a hard time seeing you in the dark, they can detect the heat and hunt you down."
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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