Doug Pearce has owned South Downs Honey for more than three years, with millions of bees in hives across the South Downs.
Like many other businesses Doug's trade was already decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, reducing his takings by at least half according to his calculations.
But the father-of-one received another cruel blow when 18 of his hives, on the South Downs behind Lyons Farm Retail Park in Worthing, were mindlessly destroyed, costing him thousands of pounds in lost products, equipment and the lives of around 630,000 bees.
The tragic scene was discovered recently by a bee inspector who went to check on the hives - known as an apiary - but as Doug had not been to the site since Easter the damage could have occurred at any point over the last few weeks.
"When the bee inspector called it was just shock, disbelief and anger," said Doug, who lives in Lancing. "When I went up and saw it myself it was awful. That's my whole livelihood."
With each hive costing around £400 to replace, the cost of replacing the bees and equipment alone will add up to around £7,000. It then takes around a year for the hive to grow and begin producing honey, Doug said, losing thousands of pounds in revenue in the meantime.
"I hope that these people are sorry for what they have done," he said. "It's not just the bees they have hurt, it's my entire employment as well."
Many of the bees were dead at the site, with some still crawling around their smashed homes trying to salvage what honey remained. Others may have flown into the trees, but without a functioning hive all 630,000 would likely be dead within a few hours.
The lost hives had been thriving in Lambleys Lane behind Lyons Farm for around three years, but Doug has been keeping bees for around nine - finally leaving his job as a teacher in 2017 to pursue a full-time living from his hobby.
He has become a familiar face at markets and to shop owners around Sussex and a fundraiser he set up has seen the community rally around him.
More than £6,700 has already been raised from nearly 500 donors, smashing Doug's target of £4,000 total in another fine example of the community spirit that already existed, but has been galvanised by the coronavirus pandemic.
To help support Doug, visit www.gofundme.com/f/helping-to-recover-from-vandalism-of-beehives
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