Bear destroys beehives used for research at local college

Bears are known to love honey, but nothing could have braced the owners of “Bees in the ‘Burbs” for the bear attack that decimated roughly 20 honeybee hives in November.

“We’ve heard stories about this happening, but never to us” said Kaylie Holcomb, marketing manager for the Maple Valley business.

Holcomb, and her Dad, said the cost to build back comes with a nearly $20,000 price tag.

The cost is bad, but the real pain is the loss of a teaching tool. The hives had been part of a partnership with Green River College to teach beekeepers best practices, and to do research.

Danny Najera, a professor who oversees a team that works on the hives, said the goal was to use the hives for research on overwintering bees. During the winter months honeybees retreat to hives and form a cluster, they eat honey to stay alive and vibrate to raise the temperature inside a hive.

The hives attacked by bears were part of a years-long project.

“There will be a big asterisk in our research reports that say we don’t’ have any data in this yard,” said Najera. “They didn’t have a chance to go through the winter, because they were decimated.”

Each hive had between 80-100 lb. of honey, meaning the bears gobbled up roughly a metric ton of honey before anyone figured it out. A pretty impressive job given they got through an electric fence to make it to the honey.

Some boxes were scattered several hundred feet away from where they began, though it’s unclear how much time it took the bears to steal the honey.

While the loss is frustrating, neither the business or the professor seem to blame the bears – though to build back they’re going to need time, and money. In addition to the wooden frames that the bears reduced to kindling, hundreds of thousands of bees were killed or displaced.

Holcomb started a GoFundMe page to get help, and after a customer posted it online they began getting extra donations and purchase orders for their product.

“I shed a few tears this morning and got straight to work,” said Holcomb. “We’ve never been so much with everyone placing orders, donating, just trying to keep up thanking people.”

The business still has a long ways to go before they reach their goal of raising $20,000 to replace the hives. If you’d like to donate you can do so at this link.