UK Beekeeper Wonders If Covid-19 Is Causing Bee Thefts
A beekeeper in the Swettenham area of Cheshire has had thousands of bees stolen. Pete Sutcliffe received an awful surprise when he found his hives, containing thousands of bees, had been stolen on February 21, 2021. He wonders if the Covid-19 pandemic is turning bee lovers against one another. Imagine the shock the 69-year old beekeeper received when he went to check on his bees and found the hives gone.
As chair of the Cheshire Beekeepers Association, he says this type of crime is not an isolated incident. Beehive theft is more common than we may wish to think. In fact, it happens every year.
Mr. Sutcliffe shared his thoughts about who may be doing the stealing. In some instances, thieves probably steal bees and then turn right around and sell them to those who want to start beekeeping, since there is a narrow market demand for bees. Since it is early in the "busy bee” season, this is when people look to acquire bees as they emerge from winter to start making honey. Thieves may also sell them into private collections of beekeepers who want to expand their bee count, or put the bees to work in their own apiary businesses. This would serve as a short cut to the time consuming splitting of colonies which can take months, with each colony needing a new queen.
In fact, he has expected an increase in beehive theft due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many people want to start beekeeping at the moment and Covid restrictions have caused a backlog from last year where people are unable to do a beekeeping course or purchase a colony of bees at the right time.
He suspects the criminal element may have identified a need they can fill by beehive theft. After all, bees are untraceable so stealing them is likely to go undiscovered. He hasn’t heard of any stolen bees being returned to their beekeepers.
He is very sad on many levels to have lost his bees. While it is a skilled pastime or profession, most beekeepers care deeply for their bees, and the insects are important to the environment and the human food chain. In addition, he has suffered a financial loss, and will lose crucial time in having to rebuild his colonies right as beekeeping season begins.
This 10:53-minute video by Australiannativebee is unrelated but discusses a bluetooth solution for those who fear their hives may be stolen. Maybe this is why some thieves take the frames and leave the hives behind...
On February 1, 2021 a separate incident was reported where 45,000 bees were stolen in Leicestershire, according to David McDowell, a professional beekeeper who knows the owner of the three stolen hives.
Mr. McDowell lives in Ashby and is known locally as The Bee Farmer. He said the woman who was robbed of her bees has been a beekeeper for over 20 years and keeps her bees on private gated land. She is devastated at the loss, and the bees that escaped when the hives were opened and damaged will die since the thieves took the frames that the bees live on.
He is very angry about this and believes the thieves must have had some beekeeping knowledge. Now they also have 45,000 bees that do not belong to them as well as many bee stings.
Both bee thefts were reported to local police but chances of recovering bees are slim to none.
We decided to blog about this to alert beekeepers not just in the UK but everywhere to be extra vigilant of their bees during these challenging times. This is the time of year that will yield the maximum advantage to crooks who steal beehives as the honey making season begins now. Fellow beekeepers should look out for each another's hives, and sound the alarm on any suspicious people or strange incidents if something seems suspect.
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