Hive thefts increase … time to up security

It’s a sad fact of life but these days it seems that if it’s not tied down then it gets gets nicked and unfortunately that also includes bees and beehives. So far I haven’t personally experienced a theft but I do know people who have and when they went to check their bees they find that several hives are missing from the apiary, and it’s even sadder when people have found hives with the entrances blocked up ready to take but the the thieves have left without them for whatever reason and the bees have over heated and perished.

With the recent resurgence in beekeeping as a hobby the suppliers are finding it hard to keep up with demand and there is a a thriving market for second hand equipment (just look on eBay) and a there is also a real shortage of bees and I am sure many new beekeepers don’t ask enough questions as they are so excited just to get started on their new hobby.

It’s often suggested that the perpetrators of these thefts must be bee keepers with beekeeping knowledge but I don’t think that this is always the case, I have heard of non-beekeepers stealing supers from the  hives and braving the stings that they take in order to get the honey. It’s a hard deal for the bees, they are fighting off viral, bacterial and parasitic enemies in the hive, then there are the wasps robbing the honey and wax moths and mice destroying the combs and also woodpeckers attacking the hives during the winter months and if they survive this lot they get nicked and either destroyed or sold on to some unsuspecting beekeeper.

The iron brand

Having read several forum articles on protecting the hives, with suggestions ranging from fixing the hive floors to concrete blocks to more hi-tech solutions using motion activated cameras and alarm systems I decided to opt for the simpler solution of branding the wood components of my hives so at least they are more recognisable and therefore hopefully harder to sell on if they are stolen and this may act as a deterrent to potential thieves.

Initials burn't into the cedar

My initials burn't into the cedar

I emailed several local blacksmiths  to try and get a brand made up but received no responses at all, then I contacted a few commercial brand makers but the prices were astronomical. I eventually found a supplier in Texas who could make-up a 4 letter brand, delivered to the UK for about £35 so happily placed my order.

The brand does need quite a bit of heat to get it going – the blowtorch just didn’t get it there so I opted to firing up the wood burner and carrying out the branding in the comfort of my lounge with the results shown above.

So how can other beekeepers help to reduce the problem of theft? It’s in all our interests as you may think you are getting a bargain but then it could just as easily be your bees that are stolen next! A few thoughts are:

Only buy bees from a reputatble source, either a known supplier or from your local beekeepers association. This also helps to ensure that the bees that you receive are good tempered with a young queen and disease free and this also gives you a point of contact to return and ask those questions that will invariably come up.

If the hives appear to be marked with initials or a postcode don’t be afraid to ask where they have come from, if you are not 100% convinced of their origin don’t buy them. In fact report them to to your local beekeepers association or on the beekeeping forums (again its a sad refection on society that there seems to be areas dedicated to stolen hives and security).

The finished super

The finished super

Finally if you are offered hives marked with ‘DJBM’ let me know as they will definitely be mine!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog then please let me know, comments and feedback are always welcome!

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Very informative. I noticed the pricing for branders and thought of checking with a blacksmith. Thanks for your advice for this novice! I ordered my bees today…can’t wait…=)

    Reply

    • Hi Rita, glad that this article was of help! Good luck with your bees when they arrive and come and join us at the ‘British Beekeepers’ if you have a facebook account.

      Reply

  2. Posted by AEH on May 24, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    what was the name of the branding company?

    Reply

    • Hi,

      the branding company I used was in Texas and called Sloanbrands: company http://www.sloanbrands.com/index.htm . I used them as I couldn’t get anyone in the UK to make me a brand for a low cost. Thornes are now advertising in the BBKA newsletter that they will make a two letter brand for £18 then add £3 for each additional letter. These look very good but are slightly smaller in size than the Texas brand I purchased.

      Reply

  3. Posted by Adrian on September 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Good post, good advice. In a bumper year, a hive could be worth a great deal of money!
    I’ve had a brand for nearly 45 years! My father made it; not as big as yours, but small enough to mark frames as well. I bet that one takes some getting up to temperature outdoors ;)
    A laundry marker is useful for marking your post code onto frames and boxes, the ink sinks into the grain on new equipment.
    Two scallywags should be able to make off with a hive in about 3 minutes. That should give them enough time to leisurely secure the bees and the hive parts and start walking :( No protective clothing needed, especially at night.
    The site of a hive should take into account all of the bees requirements as well as visibility of the hives (and you working on them) to the public. This includes pedestrian routes and especially the view from a van on adjacent roads.

    Reply

    • Hi Adrian, many thanks for taking the time to add to this blog entry. I agree with all your points regarding siting a hive, its a sad fact of life that security should be so high on the agenda but it is better to take precautions and nothing happen than to get complacent that nothing ever will and finding the hives gone as several beekeeping friends have experienced.

      Reply

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