Image credit: Chelsea Bay Wills
UK's Bee Keepers Hit by Increased Theft
As you can tell from the photo - I'm a big fan of bees. I've written before about my own experiences of installing a bee hive, and I was super excited to hear that the Obamas are taking up beekeeping. But these are troubled times for beekeepers. As if disease, climate change and the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder were not enough, UK beekeepers are now being hit by organized criminals. The idea of thieves sneaking off with boxes full of thousands of stinging insects is somewhat comical at first, but the economic consequences are potentially devastating for an industry that is already in trouble... The Guardian tells us, perhaps somewhat hyperbolically given the number of bees in each hive, that over a million bees were stolen in a recent heist:
The sharp decline in Britain's honeybee population following the arrival of varroa mites and two consecutive harsh winters has led to premium prices for top-quality bees and a black market trade in stolen hives. In the latest incident, more than a million were taken from a strawberry farm near Telford, Shropshire. Thefts of 12 hives in Whitby, North Yorkshire, and three from the New Forest in Hampshire have also been reported, as well as cases in Norfolk and the West Country.
David Sutton, the National Bee Unit inspector for western England, said: "You used to get the odd one or two, but not like this. People are realising the value of bees now because they are very scarce."
Experts believe the bees may have been stolen to order, destined for beekeepers whose own hives have failed. Second-hand hives that used to sell for £30 can now fetch more than £200. With each hive capable of producing around 50lb of honey a year, victims stand to lose thousands of pounds.
And the culprits may be in the beekeeping community. Tim Lovett, president of the British Beekeepers Association, said: "To steal bees, you have to know what you are doing. Beekeepers are now on the lookout. It's a vicious circle. You lose more bees, the price of bees goes up and the risk of them being stolen goes up."
So now there is another action you can add to the list of ways you can help bees: plant wildflowers, buy local honey, avoid pesticides, and keep your Neighborhood Watch number handy.
More on Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder
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Photo Essay: Bees and Bee Keepers in Crisis