Dozens of beehives have been smashed to pieces and hundreds of thousands of honey-producing bees killed by vandals in eastern Bay of Plenty.
A beekeeping crew working for Eastern Bay apiarist Kevin Simons came across the devastation while checking his bees near Whakatane at the weekend.
It was believed that the driver of a 4WD vehicle methodically smashed through the cluster of hives in the apiary site in the Matahina Forest, overlooking Te Teko.
The 30,000 to 40,000 bees in each of the hives had been hibernating and were carefully being prepared for kiwifruit pollination, due to start in two months.
"This kind of thing is simply vandalism, just total bloody vandalism," Mr Simons said.
"There were 36 hives on this apiary site. We might be lucky to save six.
"This will cost approx $9000 to $10,000 to replace this mess.
"We were not insured. You can't get insured against this sort of thing.
"This really is the same sort of ballpark as stock rustling. If this had happened a few months down the line, we would really have been in trouble.
"I would have had to call a kiwifruit grower and tell him we could not supply the bees he needed to get his flowers pollinated."
Mr Simons said police had been informed but he hoped that someone who knew about the vandalism, but did not realise the consequences of it, might "have their conscience pricked" and would contact police themselves.