Vandals destroy 88-year-old beekeepers' 20 year complex of hives, sheds and equipment

A community has raised £17,000 to help an elderly beekeeper after his rare hives were destroyed by vandals. Ron Hoskins, 88, discovered a blaze had ruined his hives, sheds, greenhouses and equipment of his apiary, all of which was 20 years in the making.

The 88-year-old beekeepers' greenhouse was set on fire and destroyed in an incident the police are treating as suspected arson

Ron Hoskins' son Dave, 64, says he will draw out the money from the GoFundMe page to give to his father

The callous criminals are even thought to have taken a brand new lawnmower and chucked it onto the fire.

Expert apiarist Mr Hoskins has spent more than two decades researching and selectively breeding bees that are able to cope with destructive mites.

The pests - known as Varroa - kill millions of the flying insects worldwide - although not his 'super-bees'.

But Ron has now been left wondering if he 'should even bother anymore' after discovering the upsetting scene on Tuesday.

He said: 'It's obvious they were encouraging it. There's nothing left. There's just nothing we can recover. We don't know who did it, but we were told by somebody who was walking past there late on Monday afternoon.'They said there was a number of youths who were hanging around not too far from our apiaries.'

Mr Hoskins is now asking parents to come forward if they suspect their children had a hand in the blaze.

Mr Hoskins' equipment which took 20 years to build was torched and are now little more than piles of ash

'These boys, whoever they are, must have smelled of smoke. The amount of damage that's been caused - that was one devil of a fire,' he added.

'They must have been covered in ash. They couldn't have come away from that without signs of what they had been doing.

'All the gear I used to create that bee - and after 24 years doing it - that's all gone. To try to replace it is going to be upwards of £30,000.

'I'll be 89 in April and I don't know if I should even bother anymore. They pushed the hives over. I'm hoping they got stung.'

However, Ron's spirits have been lifted in recent days after a GoFundMe page was launched by a local journalist to help cover the costs.

It has already more than trebled its goal of £5,000 - topping £16,000 earlier on Thursday.

His son Dave Hoskins, 64, said: 'Somebody texted my wife and told me a GoFundMe page had been opened. The money that's raised I can draw out and give to Dad.

'The contributions have lifted him up so much - we can't believe it. We thought it would just get to £1,000 or something like that. It's crazy.

'People are worried about their jobs and their own money at the moment - but it's been coming in from all over the world.'