We have all heard stories about declining numbers of different species of wildlife and how many need greater security measures to protect them … but bees? Yes, sadly it’s true that bee numbers appear to be in decline. What’s more, it is a global problem and the recent increase in bee rustling has only added to the need for new security measures.
From the UK to the USA and Canada and as far afield as New Zealand, declining numbers of bees have given rise to more theft from commercial beekeeping farmers than has ever been seen before. Until bee numbers stop declining, their overall worth and their potential value to bee rustlers will increase.
Bee Rustling Stories From 2015
United Kingdom – In Anglesey, North Wales 30,000 bees along with 3 queen bees were stolen. So significant was the story because of declining bee numbers in the area that it was featured as a BBC News story here.
Canada – In Alberta a bee farmer offered a reward for information relating to the theft of over half a million of his bees. 12 hives were stolen plus honey making equipment. As reported in this CBC news item, the farmer expressed concern that people did not realize the bees were his livestock and livelihood and no different to cattle being stolen from cattle farmers.
United States – In March 2015 in just one incident in San Joaquin County, California 144 hives were stolen. Another beekeeper from Stanislaus County said that he’d had three bee thefts in three years and had himself just recently interrupted a fourth theft attempt.
New Zealand – In Waverley there was the theft of 30 bee hives from a bee farmer’s site. Thieves cut through a steel pipe gate to gain entrance and clearly knew what they were looking for. They only took the working hives not the baby colonies.
Why So Much Bee Theft?
A theory held by many apiary owners is that because bee theft is inherently dangerous, chances are most thieves are actually experienced bee handlers. One UK beekeeper who was targeted for bee theft in 2015 told the story of how the would-be bee rustlers, clearly inexperienced with bees, abandoned their attempt to steal one of his beehives and left it lying on it side. The bees flew out and decided to defend themselves in no uncertain terms!
What Is The Solution To Bee Theft?
This is a hot topic for discussion amongst apiary owners and makes for interesting reading. Amongst the ideas we have come across are:
- Hidden hives
- Microchips in the hives
For our part as onlookers of an industry that has rarely hit the headlines before, we would suggest that bee farmers consider improving the security of their perimeter fencing. The installation of fence detection and deterrent capabilities might sound far-fetched for an apiary but serious bee farmers, many of whom invest in prized queen bee stock, might find this level of perimeter security pays dividends in the longer term. Bee rustling is likely to become a bigger rather than smaller problem in the years ahead so acting now to implement better safeguards could be a wise move.