Call it the karma of the wild: A swarm of bees attacked a group of Russian police as they tried to destroy a marijuana farm in early August.
The cops were cutting weed plants near Kostroma, Russia, about 217 miles northwest of Moscow, when they stumbled across a group of beehives in a small patch of cannabis plants. The officers were stung repeatedly, but there were no allergic reactions.
“As part of an operation, the police arrived at the scene to see whether rumors that a large amount of cannabis was growing were true,” said officer Valery Vekhov. “When we got to where the cannabis was growing, there were a number of beehives. When we tried to remove the cannabis plants, the bees started to attack us aggressively. We had to leave in order to get protective gear from the owner.”
Police said they found about 500 marijuana plants, some more than 9 feet tall, that appeared to be growing wild in the same area. The property owner, however, said he hadn’t broken any laws. He kept the hives himself, and he said he couldn’t destroy the plants because the bees took up most of his time.
It’s possible the man put the bees in the middle of the pot plot simply because it was a convenient place. But it’s also possible, police said, that he put them there as a booby trap for trespassers and law enforcement.
An officer at the scene suffered what was apparently the worst injury of the day: a stung and swollen cheek. Locals helped her ease the pain.
Russia has decriminalized marijuana, so possession of up to 6 grams is punishable only by a fine. But any amount greater than that carries a potential prison sentence, as does cultivation of more than 20 plants.
Larger grow sites come with longer sentences. If the courts find the owner grew the pot intentionally, he could serve up to eight years in prison.
Bees around the world have been dying in alarming numbers in recent years, leading to the collapse of many colonies. Biologists and environmentalists consider the situation a potential ecological catastrophe, as bees help plants reproduce.
In the United States, a growing number of localities – including some densely populated cities – have loosened rules that made it difficult for residents to maintain private bee colonies.
It wasn’t clear from media reports whether police in Russia destroyed the owner’s colonies, but any attempt to clear the area or remove the hives could have disastrous consequences for the bees.