Saturday, July 14, 2012

Apiary Security

More people wanting to keep bees, and the problem with bee numbers falling, has led to the price of bees rising; this has meant they have become of interest to thieves. This can be especially worrying for those of us who put our hives out in the forest where we are trying to take advantage of the flowering heather. Germany, Australia, Israel, Japan and America have all recently reported that hive theft is on the increase. So what can you do to help prevent this happening to you? Here are some tips:
  • Make sure your hives are not visible from the road, footpaths or other public access routes.
  • Branding or carving hive parts, or writing on them with indelible markers will help. Try to mark in areas that are less obvious or difficult for thieves to sand down, like in corners. Mark with your post code or surname, something you will be able to quote to the police. UV pens are available too at a low cost and this will add to the likelihood that your marking will survive if the police find your hive.
  • Check Google Maps on the Internet to see if the satellite view of where you put your hives can be seen – thieves use this internet tool to spot where apiaries are and then go to the location to steal them.
  • For a high tech solution, there are products like Smartwater; each batch is unique and the police can take samples found on property recovered and trace goods back to their owners through this product.
  • Some apiarists are fitting small GPS locators, like buddi, to their hives (again – not the cheapest solution); typically professional apiarists are attaching these to a small number of their hives and then if they are stolen as a batch, they have a chance of quickly finding out where the hives and the thieves are.
  • Don’t use ‘Beware of the Bees’ signs; it’s a big give away!
  • If you screw your brood box and hive base together, and screw those into a concrete stand/base, thieves will be unable to take the brood box away.
  • Another option is using ground anchors that have a loop of steel on the top (often used for tethering dogs or bikes). If you then attach a small padlock hook to the base of your brood box, you will be able to chain the brood box to the steel loop in the ground, making it immovable.
  • Many people strap their hives to their stands where the stands have extra long legs buried into the ground. OK, but remember the hive straps can easily be cut; so screwing the hive into the buried stand would make it more secure.
  • Reduce the number of people who know you have bees at a specific location; they could unwittingly pass on the information in conversation to thieves.
  • Make sure gates providing access to your apiary are locked and high. Make sure fences are high and cannot be easily breached; it’s not easy to carry a hive over a high fence or gate.
  • Thieves usually work at night, so a security light trained on your apiary would soon put them off, especially if the light would alert nearby houses.
  • Your spare supplies are kept in the shed? Make sure the shed is locked, it’s well secured; I have a small burglar alarm fitted in my shed (£5!) and signs on the shed window warning thieves that it is protected.
  • Contact alarms are very cheap now; these consist of two small (no bigger than a small matchbox) electronic (battery) devices that are connected to each other magnetically only. If they are separated a loud and piercing alarm is released until they are connected again. If one is fitted to your brood box/floor and the other to your stand (which should be heavy or tethered to the ground) then this makes an effective hive alarm!
  • You can buy mock CCTV cameras that could be pointed at the apiary; it could be enough to worry thieves that they could be real. Or you could fit real CCTV triggered on a sensor that then records on its own storage that you can load on a computer if there is a theft. Don’t buy bee hives on eBay unless you are sure they are not stolen; this is how many stolen hives are sold. Ask questions about their history, why they are being sold. Also, eBay Sellers with very low feedback responses are often people that set up one account to sell something stolen, then close the account as soon as the sale is made.
  • If you are unlucky – report the theft to the police and warn your local bee keeping association so other members can be on the lookout.
I read recently that in the USA a beehive ‘heist’ led to an apiarist thief being prosecuted on several accounts of grand theft, petty theft and trespassing. Hopefully similar harsh sentences will be handed out here in the UK.   


  1. Hi,
    This blog has a fantastic amount of information regarding bees. People often get bees confused with wasps and I think we need to better educate the upcoming generations. I will be posting a link from our site to this so our visitors can better understand bees and the reason we need to protect them.

  2. Great article Matt, we mentioned it on our latest beekeeping podcast.

    Its a real shame that this type of crime is taking place all over the world.

    See ya...Gary

  3. I discovered this post after seeing one of my apiaries on Google maps. The row of shiny metal roofs were really obvious ( I went on to find several other local apiaries, a couple of which I didn't know about. I think you should add roof camouflage to the list of security tips … I've now investigated spray painting the hive roof. More recently I've built some tidy roofs from Correx. Although mine are black, you can get the stuff in green and it would certainly make things less obvious. Of course, all of this is too late for the current set of satellite images, but Google will shortly be upgrading to newer, higher resolution, images - as described in my blog post.

    Happy New Year ;-)