Sunday, June 5, 2016

Beekeeping thieves - hive theft on the rise in Germany

Some reports blame an increase in theft of bee hives in Germany on the loss of populations caused by pesticides and disease. In any case, this article and others claim that theft of bee hives is up.

Even if you know nothing about the arcane world of caring for honeybees, one thing we all know is that this crime requires some logistics. Weighing in at around 30 kilos (around 65 lbs) a box, motorized transport is a must. If stolen bees are given a new home within about 2 miles from their original location, they are highly likely to move back there, minus the box of course. So, the seasoned thief will not take hives within a 10 km range from the intended new location.

The operating term is "seasoned", because bee theft is almost exclusively a peer crime committed by other bee keepers.

The reason for helping themselves to other people's bees is simple: money. The vast majority of German bee keepers perform this as a hobby or as a side job. Unlike in the US, where you have thousands of square miles with only one or two crops, like the almond fields of northern California, a densely populated country not much bigger than Montana has no need for 18 wheelers full of mobile hives.

Only a handful of beekeeping jobs in Germany are full time and garner media attention, for example, this one on airport beekeeping. A fully grown, established hive seems to go for around 200 Euros, a newly created hive can be less than 50 Euros but won't be productive until the following year. Add the various products needed to treat for parasites, and "saving 200 Euros" makes the difference between breaking even and losing money on a hive.

Some beekeepers are opting for GPS trackers or game cams to try and recover stolen populations and catch thieves in the act.

According to reader comments under this article, thieves hardly ever get prosecuted, even if they are known. Only hit and run vehicle accidents seem enjoy a similar low prosecution priority. Out of more than half a million hit and runs annually, only those that cause injury or death are really investigated.

[Gratuitous joke warning] We have not seen reports of any sting operations to counter the theft of honeybee populations.

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