Mystery killer wipes out half a million Swiss bees

Two Swiss beekeepers are reeling after an unknown assailant is thought to have killed half a million of their bees in a suspected case of poisoning, the second time in two years they have suffered such an incident.

Mystery killer wipes out half a million Swiss bees
Around 40,000 bees in each of 14 hives were affected. File photo: Eric Feferberg/AFP

Alois and Judith Wiggen, amateur beekeepers from Lavey in the canton of Vaud,  arrived to check on their hives on April 3rd and were faced with carnage.

“Inside the hives was a layer of dead bees 10 centimetres deep,” they told newspaper 24 Heures on Wednesday.

In total around 30,000-40,000 bees in each of their 14 hives had died.  

The couple called cantonal beekeeping inspectors, who suspected the bees had been poisoned.

“When entire colonies die you first think of an illness, but our bees had pollen on their feet which indicates they were in good health,” said the couple.

Inspectors confirmed that the couple’s hives were well maintained, and that no other hive in the area had been affected.

“It must have happened during the night because all the bees were in the hives,” said the beekeepers.

Samples were taken for analysis, the results of which are not yet available, however inspectors said it was a case of “probable poisoning”. The couple have therefore lodged a criminal complaint for damage to private property.

Speaking to the paper, hive inspector Franck Crozet said he thought it was probably a malicious act.

“It seems like someone sprayed the inside of the hives. A commercially available insecticide spray could have been used.”

“Acts like these happen sometimes but are rare,” he added. “If it’s deliberate it’s usually about revenge.”

It’s not the first time the Wiggens have seen their hives decimated; in 2014 the bees in ten of their hives died.

“Back then we thought that we had done something wrong. But in hindsight we’re asking ourselves if perhaps it was done deliberately,” they said.

Beekeeping is a popular activity in Switzerland.

According to Agroscope, the federal agriculture research centre, there are 19,000 beekeepers in Switzerland maintaining 170,000 colonies, giving the country the highest density of bee colonies in the world.

Buying the nucleus of a new bee colony costs 180-250 francs, and an established hive can yield an average of ten kilos of honey.

Though considered a gentle industry, malicious acts are not unknown in beekeeping.

Earlier this month 1.2 million bees were stolen from a farmer in Italy.

At the time the Italian farmers association said that bee rustling was on the rise in the country.

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Russian opposition leader ‘can walk with a tremble’ after Berlin treatment

Russia's leading opposition politician Alexei Navalny announced on Saturday that he could now walk with a "tremble", and gave the first detailed account of his recovery nearly a month after being poisoned.

Russian opposition leader 'can walk with a tremble' after Berlin treatment
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny published a photograph of him walking down stairs. Photo: Instagram account of Alexey Navalney
The 44-year-old Kremlin critic posted a photo of himself walking downstairs on Instagram and described how earlier symptoms had included the inability to form words.
“Now I am a guy whose legs tremble when he takes the stairs,” he wrote, detailing moments of “despair” as doctors help him overcome the effects of the nerve agent Novichok.
This latest update on his progress came after posted to Instagram on Tuesday that he had spent a first day breathing unassisted.
The anti-corruption campaigner fell ill on a plane from Siberia to Moscow on August 20 and spent two days in a Russian hospital before being airlifted to Berlin's Charite hospital.
Navalny said in his update that during the initial days of his recovery, he had needed therapy to help him recover his speech as he struggled to form words.
He was still unable to use a phone, he added, meaning friends or family probably posted the messages for him.





Давайте расскажу, как идёт мое восстановление. Это уже ясная дорога, хоть и неблизкая. Все текущие проблемы вроде того, что телефон в моих руках бесполезен, как камень, а налить себе водички превращается в целый аттракцион, – сущая ерунда. Объясню. Совсем недавно я не узнавал людей и не понимал, как разговаривать. Каждое утро ко мне приходил доктор и говорил: Алексей, я принёс доску, давайте придумаем, какое на ней написать слово. Это приводило меня в отчаяние, потому что хоть я уже и понимал в целом, что хочет доктор, но не понимал, где брать слова. В каком месте головы они возникают? Где найти слово и как сделать так, чтобы оно что-то означало? Все это было решительно непонятно. Впрочем, как выразить своё отчаяние, я тоже не знал и поэтому просто молчал. И это я еще описываю поздний этап, который сам помню. Сейчас я парень, у которого дрожат ноги, когда он идёт по лестнице, но зато он думает: «о, это ж лестница! По ней поднимаются. Пожалуй, надо поискать лифт». А раньше бы просто тупо стоял и смотрел. Так что много проблем ещё предстоит решить, но потрясающие врачи университетской Берлинской клиники «Шарите» решили главную. Они превратили меня из «технически живого человека» в того, кто имеет все шансы снова стать Высшей Формой Существа Современного Общества, – человеком, который умеет быстро листать инстаграм и без размышлений понимает, где ставить лайки.

A post shared by Алексей Навальный (@navalny) on Sep 19, 2020 at 2:09am PDT

Long road to recovery
“Not long ago, I didn't recognise people and couldn't understand how to speak,” he said. “How to find a word and how to make it mean something? This was all totally incomprehensible.
“I didn't know how to express my despair either and so I was just silent.”
The nerve agent Novichok disrupts communication between the brain, the main organs and muscles, while doctors say it gradually clears from the body.
Navalny, who said that he did not remember the early stage of his recovery, thanked the “fantastic doctors” treating him at Charite hospital.
He now saw a “clear path, although not a short one” to recovery, he said.
An avid user of social media, Navalny said that he hoped soon to be “able to scroll through Instagram and add likes without thinking about it”.
Navalny's supporters and some European leaders have said that poisoning with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, points to a state-ordered crime.
The revelations of nerve agent use have prompted calls for new sanctions against Russia and for Germany to abandon a near-completed project to carry Russian gas to Europe, Nord Stream 2.
Russia insists its medical tests did not detect any poison in Navalny's body. It says it lacks grounds for a criminal investigation, despite international calls for a transparent probe.
Navalny's aides said that German experts found traces of Novichok on a water bottle in his hotel room in the Siberian city of Tomsk.
Germany announced September 3 that medical tests from a military chemical weapons laboratory had found “unequivocal evidence” of the nerve agent.