Dale announced, “You’ve been robbed.”
When I arrived at the farm on July 13th, the acres of bright yellow sunflowers we planted for the bees were in full bloom, but as I passed the bee yard, I noticed something wasn’t right. One of the hives was short.
Between July 4th and July 13th, a beekeeper that has access to our gated farm stole a nearly full honey super from my most productive hive. The thief disassembled the hives, examined the contents of the frames, identified which had the greatest amount of honey, then removed and stole the bottom super closest to the brood from the most productive hive.
At least the thief had enough concern for the bees to reassemble the hives and leave them in proper order.
If you have been reading about my new adventures with beekeeping, you will know that I had “beginners luck” with my first honey harvest. But the potential for any more honey this season is now over for me. The bees will need the honey that remains to get them through the winter. Honey production ends when plants stop blooming. After that, the bees struggle for food.
I recognized this had to be an “inside job”, someone who knows us and has access to our farm, possibly an employee of one of several companies, their families or friends.
For the first time without my mentor, Dale, I suited up and, with my friend Joyce Wallace assisting and her sister Barbara documenting our every move, we added an extra super that contained frames with drawn comb that I had planned on using the following week for my second honey harvest. When I opened the hive, however, I noticed the front of the hive was no longer covered with the huge over-population of bees that I had had the week before.
Half the bees were missing.
In the book, “The Beekeepers Lament” by Hannah Nordhaus, beekeeper John Miller wonders why anyone would want to steal bees. He likens bee stealing to stealing a two-year-old: “You’re just making more work for yourself…Thieves must have a working knowledge of beekeeping in order to emerge unscathed.”
When preparing your hives, be sure to brand your name, address, and phone number on all hive parts, including the outside and inside, in multiple places. If a thief covers your information, it will likely be on the outside of the hive, not the inside.
I started calling each and every vendor that provides services to our farm. In 24 hours I reached four of them. I cautioned everyone I was about to ask them the strangest question they’ve ever heard: “Do you have any beekeepers on your staff?” Each time the question was followed by a long pause. One man immediately said, “No, but I have two men that have to be hospitalized if they get stung.”
Each call I made required me to be friendly yet vigilant so that each company leader knew that I was on a fact-finding mission. One brought another vendor to my attention that had been on the property quite a bit the last month. I asked, “How often were the men seen on the property? How many were there? How many trucks? What color were the trucks? What logos were on the trucks? Where did they park?” I called this fifth company and after waiting nearly a week of waiting for a reply, I got a "not us".
I started to do my homework concerning any local agricultural cops or Agricultural Crimes Units whom I should inform of the theft. I called the Bee Inspector for our area and made an appointment to register my hives, and to also learn about the status of beekeeping, and beekeepers, in my county.
If you or anyone you know has information on my stolen hive, please click on the contact me button to the right.
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In my next post I'll share all the dirty details with you about rules, regulation and registering hives.