By Derek Schlennstedt
It’s not unusual to hear about animals like dogs, birds and cats being stolen – but are honey bees also a hot commodity for thieves?
Stung by criminal bee-haviour, Yarra Valley apiarist, Phil Godman, was surprised to find that four of his prized beehives had been stolen from the Coldstream property where he housed them.
Phil, who checks the bees occasionally over winter, said he noticed immediately that some were missing.
“At this time of the year, you don’t do much with them as it’s too cold, so you set them up and make sure they’ve got everything and leave them alone,” he said.
“I hadn’t looked at them for a few weeks, but as soon as I drove in the gate I could see that some were gone.”
The beehives that were taken contained between 1000 and 50,000 bees and could hold 20 kilograms of honey.
It is because of their size in comparison to the other hives that Phil believes whoever took them had some knowledge of beekeeping and beehives.
“They took the ones which are two boxes.”
All four hives contained two boxes which meant they had the most bees and honey within them – which Mr Godman said could easily sell for more than $1000.
“These ones have a box of brood which are the baby bees and the next box on top is honey, so they basically got a box of bees and a box full of honey – they took the biggest, heaviest, more valuable ones,” he said.
“For hives that are two boxes high, strong, full of honey, and strapped, they’ll sell for $200 plus – easily $1000 worth.”
Although beehive theft is relatively small in Victoria it isn’t unheard of, and each year thousands of bees and hives are stolen throughout the state ahead of almond pollination season.
Around August each year, Victorian apiarists lease out bees and beehives to almond pollinating organisations in the north of the state to help pollinate almond orchards.
It is in the lead-up to this season that many apiarists around the state report stolen bees and beehives.
“Almond pollination is a big thing in the north-east of the state,” Mr Godman said.
“They are expanding the almond industry and need thousands more hives, so there is value for anyone who can take strong beehives up there.”
For Mr Godman, his strongest hives are now gone and with them four of his strongest queen bees – to build them all up again will take over a year.
“You can split a hive and get them to make a new one but it all takes work.”
“It’ll take a year to get it to the stage where in the next season they can produce honey but for that first season they won’t produce anything.”
Mr Godman remains pessimistic about their return but does urge other beekeepers to remain vigilant and take precautionary methods.
“I probably will never get them back, but for security, lock the gates, make sure all the boxes are branded and keep them out of sight,” he said.
The hives are described as being a metre tall, white in colour with green lids and the words G092 written on them.
They were stolen between 24 May and 14 June from a property on Maroondah Highway in Coldstream and anyone with information is urged to contact First Constable Debernardi at Lilydale Police on 9739 2300.