Food News

Vandals Attack a Local Bee Colony. Like Facing Extinction Wasn't Hard Enough.

Marie Tedei created Eden's Organic Garden Center and CSA farm for several reasons. One was self-fulfilling: She's a studied horticulturist and has a passion for living clean and healthy off the land. But the primary reason was to have a place where the local community and farmers can create a sustaining partnership. And yes, with Marie, as you'll soon learn, it really is mostly about other people.

The 14 acres that make up Eden's Organic out in Balch Springs is host to a variety of programs and events. In addition to being Marie's home, it has a large garden, a small chicken coop, horse stables and, on certain days, a community store and meeting place for a CSA. The urban farm is also host to large outdoor events like last year's Chefs for Farmers dinner, which was attended by Matt McCallister, Abraham Salum, Bruno Davaillon and Stephan Pyles, to name a few.

And nestled among the trees way back on Marie's 14 acres, a ten-minute walk from the road, far out of sight from any passerby, are two hives loaded with tens of thousands of honeybees. Susan and Brandon Pollard of the Texas Honey Bee Guild run a program called "Zip Code Honey," which places hives all around North Texas. Marie was more than happy to have the hives, and felt the secluded acres in the back of her property would provide a sweet life for the bees.

And they did. Until last week, when, for unknown reasons, someone nearly destroyed the two beehives.

"Marie's farm has wild hogs that will knock over and trample the 'girls'," says Susan Pollard with the Texas Honey Bee Guild, referring to the bees. "And wild hogs do have the snout and disposition to rout out precious honey. Yet human vandalism is an ignorant, unfortunate act."

When Marie found the vandalized beehives, she snapped some photos for the police and her own records. Large rocks that were kept on top of the hives as anchors were smashed into part of the meshing that goes inside the beehives, an act unlikely committed by a wild animal.

The Pollards immediately came out, found the queens, who were still alive, and reconstructed the hives.

Marie knows that kids from the surrounding neighborhoods occasionally wander through the back part of her property, leaving some trash and toys behind as evidence. But other than the prospect of them perhaps getting hurt, Marie doesn't mind too much. She wants kids to have the opportunity to explore nature, so much so that she is averse to posting "Keep Out" signs along her fences. Her view of nature seems to be that it's there for everyone.

She's still astounded, though, as to why anyone would try to destroy a bee colony. And this has forced her to take more extreme measures to keep wandering feet out.

"Bees are responsible for two out of every three pieces of vegetable we put in our mouths," explained Marie. "And considering all the difficulties they already have working against them from pesticides, viruses and everything else, I don't understand why anyone would create more hazards for them. They already have enough working against them."

After carefully fixing the hives, the Pollards think the bees will persevere, but worry what another intrusion would do.

"Wintering over has its vulnerabilities," Susan Pollard explains. "The honeybees already have reduced their numbers for winter cluster. Ideally we would have 60,000 bees in each separate colony going into winter. Hostile violations further reduce by many thousands the winter refuge population and repeated exposure to the cold and wrecked food stores can spell their doom. Any one particularly vicious attack, stomping or chomping, dismantling their sanctuary and killing their queen may prove a lethal encounter."

And if Marie had the opportunity to talk to vandals, it might not be what you would expect. More than anything she wants to educate them on the importance that bees play in all our lives. She'd probably even have them taste a little of their wonderful nectar. Then maybe hand them a basket of fresh veggies she's pulled from her own garden as a lesson in pollination.

For now, the bees endure. And while Marie worries about the hives surviving another attack, from either wild boars or people, and has taken measures to protect them.

Standing near the hives, Marie points out the serenity, "Listen. Just listen."

Quiet. Then, birds. And more birds. Yes, it's just the birds and the bees.

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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.