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Whether commercial or just a hobby, beekeeping is a considerable investment of both time and money, and as with all considerable investments, you must put measures in place to protect it. Beekeepers the world over have experienced beehive theft either in part or in whole. As such, they must take measures to protect their valuable investment. Beekeepers that practice beehive theft prevention and security use a combination of measures to keep their hives safe. In a beehive, the most valuable items that are usually stolen are the bee colony itself and honey (thieves will take the frames and extract the honey from it). Beeswax and other accessories are of lesser monetary value. Thieves who have stolen beehives often sell the accessories to increase their income from each stolen beehive.
Beehives are increasing in value due to rises in the demand for honey. As a result, thieves will steal beehives to resell them later, after often repainting them. The impact of stolen beehives on a beekeeper includes financial and emotional loss. The image of the beekeeper also gets a beating.
It is important to keep in mind that beehive thieves are not average persons. They are people with beekeeping knowledge. Often, they will be intermediate or professional beekeepers. Additionally, a beehive thief often requires having a mode of transport nearby to use in carrying away heavy beehive boxes. Sometimes, beehive theft is an inside job. It is done by employees, or friends and relatives of employees. The employee in question may be current or former.
Practical Beehive Anti Theft Methods
The measures taken in preventing beehive theft include those that are a deterrent and those that can help with recovery. A combination of the two is best for effective protection of beehives from theft. Here is a detailed look at the various methods at the disposal of beekeepers to adopt in protecting their beehives from being stolen.
1. Lock Everything Up
Fences around apiaries are a great security measure. They present a first line of defense that beehive thieves have to overcome. Lock up entrances into the apiary as a first measure against beehive theft. Additionally, you may have strong bases for beehives with attachments to which you can lock brood boxes.
2. Use CCTV Cameras
Closed circuit television cameras are great for monitoring of beehives and the apiary. They are capable of capturing great and clear videos and images. CCTV cameras can be triggered by motion in an area. They mostly require AC power to run but can also be run off a battery for significant periods of time. CCTV footage is great for identifying beehive thieves. It is also irrefutable evidence if you press charges against beehive thieves you catch.
Posting notices that your apiary is monitored by CCTV can deter thieves from approaching the apiary and stealing beehives. Even non-functioning CCTV is often enough to act as a deterrent since the thief does not know if the camera is working or not. CCTV cameras can either store captured information or send it to you. Email and a dedicated FTP server are great for receiving CCTV footage wherever you are.
3. Install Wildlife/Trail Cameras
Trail cameras take photos and videos depending on their type and settings. They are great for use on access roads and paths to your apiary. You may post signs informing intruders that there are trail cameras and discourage potential thieves from the area. Trail cameras will capture graphics periodically or can be set to be triggered by motion in the apiary. They do not send captured information but save it in their memory devices. As a result, they are mainly useful for when you are making recovery of stolen beehives.
Features to look for in a trail camera for apiary monitoring
- The camera you use should send videos and images to a phone, FTP server or email. This will notify you of an intruder. If you are not far from the apiary, you may visit it immediately and check on the beehives. You may get lucky and catch the thief in the act. The beekeeper can also call the police and have them check out the apiary. If the camera does not send video and images, then it should store the information in its memory for later retrieval.
- Have a recording schedule with a set frequency. Most trail cameras can be configured to take photos and record footage after a set period of time. The beekeeper should be able to adjust the time period between the capture of photos to their preference. This allows the camera to use up less of its internal storage capacity and preserves battery power.
- Internal camera memory management including overwriting of old data. Trail cameras should be checked often and their data retrieved. Deleting old files helps keep the memory of the camera available for storage of fresh data. In the event that the storage gets full, the trail camera should be able to overwrite the old data.
- Illumination in infrared light. This is important for the capture of sharp images and footage. The illumination given off by the camera should be invisible infrared light. Giving off visible light may lead to the beehive thief noticing the camera and removing it. The illumination given off by the camera should reach the range of the camera and motion sensors for effectiveness. Diodes are great for the best infrared illumination.
- Adjustment of infrared motion sensors. This is important so that the camera is not triggered by movement caused by the wind. Changing the sensitivity is done in small, gradual and uniform increments over time. It prevents false alarms, and failure of the camera to get activated when it should be.
- Quick response time. A camera that responds slowly to movement may miss thieves out to steal your beehives. The camera should have a quick response time so nothing escapes it. Best response times are in the range of microseconds. It should not be more than half a second for best vigilance of the camera.
- Beekeepers using trail cameras for their apiary security should keep in mind that the size of stored files varies by quality. High quality images and video footage takes up much more space. Additionally, the frequency of recording data affects how fast the camera’s available storage space will be used up.
All of these features of a trail camera may not be available based on what you can afford. Go for the most useful features first and find a camera with many of the features. Some trail cameras may come with a small solar panel to increase the operating time of their batteries. To cover large apiaries with monitoring equipment, use more than one trail camera in overlapping fields of coverage.
Low Cost Tips on Beehive Theft Prevention
The methods discussed above will serve as an effective deterrent, however all that equipment will come at a considerable cost to procure. As such, you can peruse the following low cost tips to prevent beehive theft.
1. Be Friendly to Neighbors
Beekeepers should be friendly to neighbors for the extra eyes they can keep on their beehives. Sometimes, it may require the occasional jar of honey during honey harvests to keep the good relations going. This is a small price to pay for the community to be willing to confront people they see lurking around your beehives.
Having good relations with people near your apiary is especially important if your beehives are situated away from where you live. Vigilant neighbors will deter potential thieves and will alert you if they see anything unusual going on near your beehives.
2. Interact with Other Beekeepers and Share Information
Being in a beekeeping club is useful for beekeepers. In the club, you get to hear about beehive thefts that may have occurred in your area. You can then increase surveillance of your beehives and also be on the lookout for beehives being moved. In the beekeeping club, share information about stolen beehives if your beehives get stolen. Additionally, incidents such as attempted thefts and reports of neighbors warding off would-be thieves should be circulated around. The entire beekeeping community will help each other keep the beehives safe.
In your beekeeping club, encourage members to invite the entire community to take photos of beehives being moved. An active community may be the first source of information that will be useful in recovering stolen beehives.
3. Visit your Beehives Frequently
You should visit your beehives frequently and in irregular patterns. Try mixing up the days of the week and the time of day, including the night. Anyone observing your beehives and checking them out for a possible theft will be unsure of when to strike. A frequent yet irregular visiting pattern makes prediction difficult and may even help you catch a thief in the act of stealing your beehives. These visits should not be limited to when you are carrying out beehive inspections. When you have some free time, pay a visit to your apiary.
4. Get a Suitable Location
It is often best to locate your beehives away from the public gaze. Beehives hidden away will usually not be spotted and targeted for theft. The downside to this is that if they are ever found out, they are an easy sitting target for beehive thieves. Secluded apiaries are a prime target for beehive thieves. They are easy targets and perpetrators of theft in these out of way places often go uncaught. People who are intent on stealing beehives will often strike at night, so beehives that are off the beaten path are easy to hit.
Beekeepers using their backyard for beekeeping do not have a problem with location. It is generally difficult for beehive thieves to steal beehives that are near the owner. Additionally, neighbors or your dog will notice the unusual activity and notify you. Having your beehives at a place where getting to them requires people to go past your house. This has better chances of you hearing beehive thieves on their way to or from stealing your beehives.
Recovering Stolen Beehives
The following methods we are about to discuss won’t deter thieves, however they will go a long way in recovering your beehives in the event of theft. Of course, these methods would need to be implemented before the beehives got stolen in the first place. Let’s check them out.
1. Use Tracking Devices for Beehive Security
Trackers are great for the recovery of stolen beehives. They come into play when your theft deterrent measures have failed and a thief takes off with your beehives. Tracking devices for beehives are small and should last long on battery power. They are easy to plant inside your beehive and can be triggered by various factors. Often, wiggling the beehive should be enough to trigger the tracking device. The device should then send coordinates to a cell phone or email. Additionally, the tracking device should be easily monitored from a computer, smartphone or tablet.
Features to look for in a beehive tracking system:
- Easy to place in chosen areas within a beehive. The tracker should be small enough to fit easily in the beehive discretely. The lids, bottom boards and honeycomb are great areas to hide the tracker.
- It should stay off until it detects disturbance of the beehive. The tracker should be sensitive yet able to be active quickly. The best trackers stay off so that they do not affect bees with their radiation waves. Quick trackers alert the owner of beehive disturbance early during the theft. Even if the thief finds the tracker, the beekeeper will have been already alerted and taking measures to stop the theft or catch the thief.
- Tracking the device should be easy so you can get new locations of stolen beehives. You can also track the course of the beehive while it is being moved after it is stolen.
- A good range of the tracking device’s signal. Since the stolen beehive is going to be moved, the range of the tracking device’s signal should be wide enough to allow tracking of the device. Additionally, the tracker should have full GPS and 2G, 3G and 4G network coverage. This helps to compensate for possible difficulties in reception based on locations.
- The beehive tracking device should be able to conserve its battery power and remain charged for long. Beekeepers want trackers that can last for long between recharges or battery swaps. They do not want to open up the hive every other day just to juice up the tracking device they are using to protect beehives from theft.
Use several tracking devices in more than one beehive in large apiaries. The beehives with the strongest honeybee colonies are likely to be a target for beehive thieves, so prioritize installing trackers in them. In the event that a thief steals more than one beehive, it is likely that they will take at least one beehive with a tracker in it. The tracker will then lead you to the rest of the beehives.
Caution using Tracking Devices
Beehive tracking devices have the possibility of harming bees. It is why they should preferably remain off until the beehive is disturbed. Continuous emission of radio and cell phone signals has been found to disorient bees. Additionally, constant exposure to the signals may result in enlarged heads in your honeybees.
2. Brand your Beehives
Brand your beehives with unique marks and numbers. This deters thieves from stealing the beehives and also helps with recovery if the beehives get stolen. The inner parts and accessories in the beehive such as frames should not be left unbranded. Thieves seeing branded beehives know that they will have a difficult time selling the beehives. Soft parts of frames are great for branding since sanding away the brand will likely result in damage to the frames. You should also try to brand some hidden and hard to spot parts of the beehive so the marks are not removed in the event of a successful theft.
You can use either heat to burn a brand into your beehive and its parts or engrave the brand into wooden parts. There is easy to use branding equipment available to beekeepers. DIY beekeepers can also make their branding tools using locally available materials. Soldering irons are often used by beekeepers in making their DIY branding equipment.
Plastic and Poly beehives present unique challenges in branding. Beekeepers have found a way to get around these challenges by using epoxy resin. It sticks well onto the surface of beehives and blends in with the poly material.
As a part of branding, some beekeepers paint their beehive boxes in unique colors so they are easy to identify. However, the first step for many beehive thieves aiming to resell beehives is painting the beehive boxes. If this happens, then you can no longer rely on the beehive box color when looking for your stolen beehives.
3. Mark with Ultra Violet Ink Pens and RFID Tags
Ultra violet ink is not visible to the naked eye. Thieves will hardly notice it on your beehives. If your beehives are stolen and you get a chance at recovering them, the ink will tell who the real owner of the beehives is.
RFID tags are small and discreet tags that you can insert into small spaces of your beehive. They give a unique code when scanned with the right equipment. RFID tags will not deter thieves from stealing the beehives but are great for when you are recovering stolen beehives.
What to do if your Beehives are Stolen?
In the event that your beehives are stolen, it is best to report the incident immediately to the police. The earlier an investigation is launched, the better for you. Share all the information you have with the police. If you have tracking devices of footage of the theft taking place, share it with the police. It is best that you do not confront the thief of your beehives alone. Having the police accompany you is great since they are best equipped and trained to deal with the thief and arrest them.
In addition to reporting beehive theft to the police, share the information with the community and other beekeepers. Publicizing the theft helps produce leads to useful and helpful information. You should watch local trading platforms for beehives on sale. You may find your stolen beehives listed for sale and recover them. The second hand trading platforms should receive the bulk of your attention.
A Final Word
Beehive theft prevention is an important consideration for any beekeeper. Large apiaries may have the capability to employ guards for their beehives. Furthermore, in large beekeeping operations, it is advisable to have insurance for your beehives. Hobbyists and smaller beekeeping operations have to figure out on their own how to protect beehives from theft. Use these detailed methods in various combinations to keep your beehives from being stolen. The measures can also help you easily recover beehives that have been stolen and carted away from the apiary location.
What measures do you put in place for beehive theft prevention and security? Leave a comment below and let us know.