More than half a million bees die after shocking act of arson in Texas

Over 500,000 bees perished in a fire following a break-in at a Texas pasture. 

Police are searching for the person or people responsible for ripping apart and setting nearly 20 hives on fire at a Brazoria County pasture over the weekend, according to KTRK.

On Saturday, members of the Brazoria County Beekeepers Association came across the wreckage and discovered the remains of 24 colonies, which can take bees up to a year to establish. 

"We're looking at 500,000 to 600,000 (bees) that have been destroyed out of that environment," said Steve Brackmann, who sells beekeeping equipment and queen bees. 

The estimated number is a staggering loss, considering the honey season has just started. One member of the association, for instance, lost all of the honey he had hoped to sell this summer, the station notes. 

While some of the hives were burned, others were taken and thrown into a nearby pond. 

"Its [sic] bad enough to think in todays [sic] world this would happen but dumping them over and then setting fire to them is beyond comprehension," the association wrote in Facebook post. "Club has offered a reward to lead to conviction and anyone with info please forward it to the sheriffs [sic] office as a case # has been filed."

There are over 4,000 species of bees in the U.S., many of which are responsible for pollinating crops and other plants, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Yet, the number of bees has fallen over the years due to the increasing use of insecticides, Brackmann told KTRK

"Tomatoes, squash, watermelons, bees pollinate those," he said. "So if bees don't pollinate those, you get zero vegetables, we would see next to nothing in the vegetable stores."

Since the weekend incident, the Brazoria County Beekeepers Association has asked for donations on Facebook. As of Wednesday afternoon, it has raised more than $13,000 from 450 people. 

RELATED: See which crops we'd lose if we no longer had bees: 

19 crops that would disappear without bees
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19 crops that would disappear without bees

Click through the slideshow to see the 19 crops that would disappear without bees.

1. Apples
Surprise, surprise — the nation's largest producer of apples is Washington State. In a typical year, 10 to 12 billion apples are harvested every year by hand, or put another way, about three out of five apples in the United States come from Washington. That's staggering — and without bees, the cross-pollination needed to produce apples just wouldn't happen on a scale large enough to produce today's crop.

Credit: Taste of Home

2. Almonds
About 80 percent of the world's almond supply comes from California, which requires about half of the honeybee population in the United States for pollination each year. Valued at more than $3 billion, this crop is California's top agricultural export. This year's crop is the largest ever, at 1.9 billion pounds, most of which is destined for locales in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Credit: Miri Leigh

3. Blueberries
Besides being loaded with antioxidants, they're also delicious on top of pancakes, in muffins, and of course, in pie. The loss of the blueberry crop wouldn't just be felt at the kitchen table, however — the National Agricultural Statistics Service values the nation's blueberry crop, most of which comes from Maine, at more than $593 million, 90 percent of which is pollinated by honeybees.

Credit: Johnny Miller and Others

4. Watermelon
The prospect of a summer without this refreshing, juicy fruit is certainly a strange one. Not only is 90 percent of the watermelon crop dependent on honeybees, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, but pollination by bees is essential to ensure a melon that is evenly shaped and symmetrical.


5. Cherries
Honeybees are responsible for pollinating about 90 percent of the cherries in the United States, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, most of which come from Washington State. Sweet cherry trees require the pollinating activities of honeybees in order to produce enough fruit for a commercially viable crop.

Credit: Leigh Beish

6. Peaches
According to data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, about 80 percent of the annual $600 million crop is pollinated by honeybees. Other insects, including other types of bees, contribute the remaining 20 percent.

Credit: iStock/kenishrotie

7. Rapeseed
The rapeseed crop, better known for its common end product, canola oil, isn't exactly a tear jerker but it is one that is almost completely dependent on honeybees for pollination, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Credit: flickr/johnm2205

8. Avocados
The National Agricultural Statistics Service reports that 90 percent of the avocados grown in the United States rely on honeybees for pollination. How does that saying go? No avos means no guac. No guac means no party. Boo.

Credit: Sheri Giblin

9. Cucumbers
Cucumbers are a popular option for cooling down in the hot summer months. Their cool, fresh flavor and crunchy bite make them a popular addition to salads, sandwiches, and cocktails. Without honeybees, though, the majority of the country's $193 million cucumber crop would be nonexistent.

Credit: Quentin Bacon

10. Cranberries
Thanksgiving just wouldn't be the same without cranberry sauce, and we're pretty sure there would be a pretty big buzz about it around dinner tables across America if, one day, there just wasn't anymore. Cranberries, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, are 90 percent reliant upon honeybee pollination.

Credit: Oneida

11. Onions
No onions? Well, you're pretty much screwed. Onions are the base for myriad classic sauces, soups, and stews when cooked, and when raw, are pretty much de facto in tacos, salsas, sandwiches, burgers, and salads. You'll still be shedding tears even when they're gone.

Credit: Carmen Taylor

12. Blackberries
Juicy, sweet blackberries are definitely a bit of an indulgence, but whether they're eaten on their own, worked into desserts, or swirled into yogurt parfait, they're always delicious. The loss of honeybees would also mean the loss of this cherished crop, which is almost entirely dependent on them for pollination.

Credit: Paulette Phlipot

13. Grapefruit
Sweet-tart grapefruit, whether eaten with a spoon or cut into segments by the ambitious, is a breakfast staple for the health conscious. It's also delicious in salads and blended into smoothies and cocktails. Grapefruit is just one of many kinds of citrus almost entirely dependent on honeybees for pollination.

Credit: Stock.XCHNG/stay4while

14. Orange
It probably goes without saying that if you're going to bring up grapefruit, you have to bring up oranges. And the data actually do back this up; like grapefruit, oranges are 90 percent dependent on honeybees for production. That morning cup of orange juice would get a lot more expensive. Maybe we'll just import our way out of this one — except, colony collapse disorder is a worldwide problem.

Credit: Joy Wilson

15. Raspberries
Luscious raspberries are a special treat, and they're great in tarts, jams, and all on their own. They'll sure be missed when they're gone. Farmers would have trouble growing most berries without honeybees, and the raspberry is no exception; the crop is 90 percent dependent on honeybees for pollination.

Credit: Taste of Home

16. Cantaloupe
Originally known as the muskmelon, the name of this fruit salad staple was changed for aesthetic reasons. (Who wants to eat something called a muskmelon, anyway?) All kidding aside however, the nearly $50 million annual crop is nothing to sneeze at, especially when it's so dependent on honeybee pollination.

Credit: Frankie Frankeny

17. Pumpkins
Halloween just wouldn't be the same without pumpkins, nor would Thanksgiving. This iconic American crop is heavily dependent on honeybees for production, and without them, there would be no pumpkin carving and no pumpkin pie.

Credit: Stock.XCHNG/naneki

18. Pears
There's nothing quite like a refreshing pear crisp on an equally crisp autumn evening, or simply biting down into a perfectly ripe, juicy pear. So here's another reason to help save the honeybees — the nearly $382 million annual crop is heavily dependent on them for pollination.

Credit: Annabelle Breakey

19. Plums
Luscious, blood red plums picked at the peak of the summer — is there nothing better? Deep, fruity flavors are offset by a slight tang perfect for baking into pies and other desserts.

Credit: Kathleen King


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