Youths have been blamed for the “shocking” destruction of two hives in an Inverness neighbourhood which has caused the deaths of hundreds of bees.
The incident happened in a field at Braes of Balvonie in Milton of Leys on Sunday evening.
A parent of another group of children, who were playing in an adjacent park, said their children told them they saw and heard “some boys complaining about getting stung” by the flying insects.
The parent said they planned to contact the police – but the force was unable to confirm whether they were investigating the incident last night.
David Brown, president of Inverness-shire Beekeepers’ Association, said that it was likely “too late” at this stage for anything to be done to save the bees.
He explained that bees deal with the cold inside the hive by forming a cluster to maintain a core temperature of 30C, and only fly outside it if the air temperature exceeds 10C.
Recent overnight temperatures mean they will all likely perish.
Mr Brown added: “We are aware that this happens and find it very distressing, mainly because it’s not only mindless vandalism but destroying living creatures, and whoever is doing it needs to be told that it is the mindless killing of living creatures. I find it totally reprehensible and I just think it’s shocking behaviour.
“If it’s small children and the parents know it’s their children, they have to speak to them and make sure nothing like this happens again.”
Yesterday at Braes of Balvonie, the broken pieces of the wooden hives could be seen in a heap at either side of the suds pond.
Hundreds of the dead bees were strewn across the mesh of the inside trays of the hive, while the remaining bees circled above.
Wooden sections of the hive structure and clusters of honeycomb could be seen in the grass near the path entrance to the field.
Parts of the fencing protecting the two hives had also been ripped down.
It is understood the hives at Balvonie were previously vandalised about two years ago.
Inverness South community council member Jean-Paul Kowaliski, also a neighbour, said: “I would insist that there should be a campaign at Milton of Leys Primary School to sensitise kids about the importance of bees, and kids should be aware of the essential roles of bees to protect them and leave them instead of destroying them.”
Mr Kowaliski added that the community council has been lobbying councillors for five years to address a lack of facilities for pre-teens in the area, and stressed that something must now be done.