SIOUX CITY — A couple who manufacture and sell honey are feeling the sting after their Sioux City operation was vandalized overnight, killing at least half a million bees.

Justin and Tori Engelhardt, the owners of Wild Hill Honey, went to go dust the snow off 50 hives stored in a grove on their 18 1/2 acre property on Sioux City’s west side around 10 a.m. Thursday.

As they approached the area where the hives were kept, Justin Engelhardt noticed their beekeeping supplies shed had been ransacked.

He feared that whoever committed the act had done much worse, a thought that unfortunately came true for the apiarist.

“They knocked over every single hive, killing all the bees. They wiped us out completely,” Engelhardt said. “They broke into our shed, they took all our equipment out and threw it out in the snow, smashed what they could. Doesn’t look like anything was stolen, everything was just vandalized or destroyed.

Engelhardt called the crime “completely senseless.”

He and his wife started Wild Hill Honey about six years ago after he became interested in bees after hearing an interview with world-renowned animal behaviorist Thomas Seeley on National Public Radio.

Wild Hills sells jars of pure, raw and creamed varieties of honey and other honey byproducts at Pierce Street Coffee Works, Sioux City Gifts, Palmer’s Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe, trade shows and other spaces.

“We’re really well known around Sioux City,” Engelhardt said.

Engelhardt estimates the vandalism caused $50,000-$60,000 worth of damage. He said insurers don't offer beehive coverage, so he doesn’t foresee a way the couple can financially rebuild their business.

“This probably sunk us,” he said.

The Sioux City Police Department is investigating the crime. Engelhardt said he was impressed by the department’s quick response, noting they came out and dusted for fingerprints and measured footprints left in the snow.

Engelhardt also shared the incident on Wild Hills Honey Facebook page. A little after 2 p.m. Thursday, the post had more than 400 shares.

“Maybe somebody knows something, right?” he said. “It may produce a lead for the police.”