PALMETTO (FOX 13) - The state Department of Agriculture has opened a criminal investigation into the destruction of several honey bee hives.
The owner of the hives, Joey Smith, said he had about 100 hives stored at a landscaping company's tree farm until Thursday afternoon.
"It's heartbreaking, you know. It's bad," he said. "I don't know what they think but by the looks of it, they took the tractor and just run over our stuff like it wasn't nothing."
Smith and his wife own Smith's Honey and Transportation Service out of Fargo, Ga.
They harvest honey and transport bee hives throughout the country to pollinate crops.
Smith said he had an agreement with the landscaping company to store the bees on the property in exchange for honey and pollination.
Wednesday, as he was checking on his hives, he noticed many of them had been damaged by a tractor.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office turned over it's initial investigation to the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Smith said whoever is responsible could face felony criminal mischief charges, and this has destroyed his business for now.
"It's probably around $100,000 counting the equipment and the time we got invested in it," Smith said.
Thursday, he loaded up his hives and equipment. They were to be taken to California for pollination of an almond harvest but not anymore.
"We'll just see where it goes from here," Smith said.