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How safe is your hive from vandals?

Whenever I hear about beehive vandalism, I think of teenage boys. Vandalism is what happens when a pea-sized brain is soaked in a jug of testosterone. The destruction is usually accomplished by toppling the hive with a powerful push or pelting the hive with rocks or snowballs—whatever is easily to hand. It is opportunistic. They do it because they can.

But there is also a more sinister type of vandalism. It arises not from an excess of hormones but from intractable fear or hatred. When the bee yard is strewn with empty cans of bug spray, uprooted trees, tire irons, or chunks of concrete, you are seeing a planned attack—one performed by so-called adults.

Random acts of treachery

These acts of treachery occur most often to hives that are on public lands or close to public thoroughfares. In recent years, community gardens in many urban areas have lost hives to vandals. San Francisco has been hard hit, as well as cities in Virginia, Florida, and Colorado.

Last year a group of “concerned mothers” outside of Seattle petitioned to have two beehives removed from a community garden where families were growing vegetables on small plots. Two weeks after the petition was rejected, the hives were mysteriously vandalized. Spray cans of insecticide littered the site and the hives were left in splinters.

I’ve been told that no official connection was made between the two incidents: the random act of violence had nothing to do with the mothers who were trying to protect their families from the ravages of dangerous insects. But I don’t believe that for a second. I think the real danger here is not bees but ignorance and vigilante justice.

The site is everything

So how can you protect your hives? The first thing to remember is that hives in public places do not do well unless they are secured by fences, gates, and locks. So sad. Oddly, hives in remote places also fare poorly. If the perpetrator has time and privacy, he can do a lot of damage and it may be weeks before anyone discovers it. All in all, your hive will do best on private property where you can see it and the public can’t.

I believe that “out of sight, out of mind” is also the best policy for reducing neighbor complaints. If neighbors or passersby know you have hives, they will imagine all sorts of transgressions. Every sting will be from your bees. Every wasp at every picnic table will be your fault. The swarm that stops traffic will be your doing.

Although it is hard to stop everyone, here are some things that may help:

  • Paint your hives a muted color. Although I long to paint my hives a rainbow of colors, I have stayed with dark green simply because they are harder to see from a distance. Depending on your surroundings, brown may be a good choice. Or, if your hives are against a structure like a house or shed, paint the hives to match.
  • Put the hives behind a hedge or tall fence. This has two benefits: it hides the hives and it forces the bees to fly high. Bees that are overhead do not attract attention like those close to the ground.
  • Keep hives away from roads, crosswalks, parks, and sidewalks. The less the public is aware of your bees, the safer from vandals they will be.
  • Don’t parade around in your bee suit. Your bee suit not only announces you have bees, it proves how dangerous they are. If you need a hazmat suit to get near them, they must be too dangerous for residential use.
  • Keep quiet. Even after all these years, I never mention bees to my neighbors—even to the ones who know about them. Talk, gossip, and scuttlebutt bring attention, and attention is something you don’t want. Even if your friends are okay with your bees, their kids—or their kids’ friends—may not be. I know, I know, like a new parent you want to talk about your charges all the time. But don’t. Save it for a bee club meeting.

We get so into our bees that we forget bee haters are everywhere, even in surprising places. Yesterday in a gardening forum someone mentioned they put a hive in their garden. Another reader answered, “Oh my god! Why would you want bees in your garden???” Wow. It’s a beephobic world.

If you have a vandalism story or know of other ways to protect your hives, please let me know. I would love to post them here and help others safeguard their honey bees.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

caption
This hive belonging to Brian Dennis of Northamptonshire, U.K. was trashed by vandals. Photo © Brian Dennis.

Comments

WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G
Reply

BEE-KEEPERS ARE MERE BEE-RUSTLERS !

Let us not forget about acts of thievery by bee-keepers. Bee-keepers cannot be trusted ! The bee-keeper industry is composed of a bunch of thieves ! Bee-keepers are continuously stealing from other bee-keepers. Bee-keepers are mere bee-rustlers ! If bee-keepers are lying and cheating and stealing among themselves, then they are also lying and cheating with their public statements about alleged bee deaths and neonicotinoid insecticides ?!?! Bee-keepers are the least qualified and least credible to provide any advice concerning neonicotinoid insecticides. In their usual method of arriving at scientifically illiterate conclusions, bee-keepers have somehow concocted the imaginary danger that neonicotinoid insecticides was the reason for bee colony collapse disorder. Of course, this is a myth ! It is also a ploy to attract enviro-profit in the form of illegitimate compensation. Bee-keepers allege, with no scientific proof, that neonicotinoid insecticides somehow cause bee colony collapse disorder. Bee-keepers are perpetuating a myth ! In fact, when used properly by growers, with Best Management Practices, neonicotinoid insecticides cause no harm, and do not hurt bees. There is no evidence to suggest a link between neonicotinoid insecticides and bee colony collapse disorder. Neonicotinoid insecticides do not harm bees. Clearly, bee colony collapse disorder is the fault of bee-keepers and their mis-management practices. Bee-keepers are responsible, and not neonicotinoid insecticides. If we had less pesticide use in the environment, we would still have bee colony collapse disorder, because many bee-keepers are not competent to manage their hives. For more information regarding BEE-RUSTLERS, go to The Pesticide Truths Web-Site.

Rusty
Reply

Interesting . . . you call me a thief then expect me to publish your letter.

Lyn
Reply

This is truly sad. I live way out in the country. We have more problems with bee theft than vandalism. Either way, it is heartbreaking.

WesternWilson
Reply

Beekeeper friends and I were talking recently on the topic not of vandalism but theft. With anticipated higher than normal colony winter loss due to the extreme cold across the USA, and with another year of extreme drought in California (which will reduce the number of colonies and queens they have for sale), it is reasonable to expect a critical shortage of bees for sale and for pollination rental contracts. Bee prices, pollination contract charges and the price of honey should rise, perhaps precipitously. So we are advising our club members with bees on accessible land (i.e. you can drive up to the hives) to somehow make them hard to steal, and to brand hive bodies and wood frames with the beekeeper’s name and phone number. Area farmers are being asked to check that the rental hives in their fields are branded with the name of the supplying beekeeper.

Gayla
Reply

I am so sick and shocked to hear of this. I never thought people were so stupid. I am so glad I live in rural America where I don’t have to deal with those TYPES OF ANIMALS. I only deal with skunks, coons, turtles, deer, coyotes, rabbits, roadrunners, bobcats, bears, wolves, foxes, eagles and all kinds of fish. I will gladly live with my kind of animals than with the city animals. Thanks for such a wonderful website. I really enjoy it.

Emily
Reply

Thanks Rusty, this is useful as it looks like I might be moving some bees to an allotment site. I have heard of people putting insecticides inside hives on allotments. Another worry for me is theft by other beekeepers, much as I hate to think that one beekeeper would do that to another there are reports every now and again of that happening.

Gayla
Reply

WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G: What is wrong with you? How dare you write something like this? I would not got to your advertized web-site that you posted because your comment is quite less than credible……Shame on you…..

Kristina
Reply

Well written and to the point! I appreciate your honesty here. I have always wondered about this, but I did not want to seem like a worry wart. I live by a park and my hives are hiddenish, but close to the road. You may have inspired me to build barriers/fence to hide the hives. I will add it to my list of things to do. Thank you.

Debbie Evans
Reply

Great info & so true. I help manage an urban farm & we obscure our hives with 2 pallets turned on their sides & connected.together in the shape of a wide “V”. Our hives were moved to their current location after they were vandalized at two other urban farm locations.

Rusty
Reply

Debbie,

I like the pallet idea. Cheap, too.

Phillip
Reply

Hiding and camouflaging the hives isn’t a bad idea. For urban beekeepers, I’d love to see a bee suit that’s coloured or patterned to blend in with an urban background. Top half of suit made to look like a denim shirt? Bottom half a pair of khaki pants? Various “flesh” coloured gloves. A veil and hat made to look like a baseball cap? I’ve probably mentioned this before, but if there was a such a suit, I’d buy it. Walking around in a full-bodied, bulky white suit in an urban environment with suspicious neighbors, I might as well be yelling through a megaphone, “Hey, look at me! Woo-hoo! Messing with bees over here!”

Rusty
Reply

You’ve found yourself a business, Phillip. Your true calling: disguising beekeepers to look like regular people. I like it.

Patrick
Reply

WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE – April Fools Day is tomorrow.

Mark Luterra
Reply

I’ve never garnered so much (positive) attention in a public place as the day I picked up a three-pound package at the local farmers’ market and carried it through the crowd. I can’t say I’ve yet encountered a bee-hater in Corvallis. There are those who would rather not get too close, but everyone seems to like the “idea” of bees at least.

That said, there are plenty of yahoos in the surrounding rural areas that like to shoot things, and one beekeeper near here just lost her hives to gun vandals.

Neil Beeson
Reply

WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G

You must be total [deleted] to say that. I bet you buy honey from shops that are supplied by us thieves. You should [deleted].

Monica
Reply

WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G

Hmmm, so are you beekeepers? Do you have first-hand experience of which you so high minded speak of?
If not, then don’t shout at us from your soap box about your corporate influenced ideas on colony collapse disorder, much less of who is stealing what from whom.

For someone wanting to come off as influential and educated, you fail miserably, embarrassing so. And not just your biased spouting is thrown at a bunch of beekeepers. It’s just regurgitated bile of ‘The Man’ who must justify his position and the injustice smeared on even you. Wisdom is not bought. It must be learned. It comes to the strong person who is willing to learn the truth – not just believe whatever is in fashion with the crowd. It’s being willing not to be a sheep.

Please don’t ever buy my honey. My bees have worked too hard and too long to waste it on such a narrow-minded pallet. It would only be bitter in your mouth. It does not taste like corporate BS.

BTW: If honey was so easy to come by, why haven’t humans figured out how to make it?

Monica
Reply

I feel like I should go wash my hands :))

Anyhooo, so the reason I am reading up this blog is this; I am going to be renting a house in Eugene. Yes, the folks there are forward minded and beehives are widely excepted through town.

My concern is when I rent I shouldn’t exactly go around and interview all my neighbors and feel out which ones are going to be the ‘haters’. I am looking for pretty, concealing ideas to tuck a couple hives into.

I’m doing all the right searches, not too close to schools or parks. Not too close to food carts or coffee drive thru’s. Basically anything that draws attention.

I don’t want anyone to know the other half of my life. (It’s a sad sad day when u have to ‘hide’ from haters).
I don’t paint my hives, since I am a all-natural beekeeper. And the other concern is sunlight on the hive. I don’t want it in too much shade. Any ideas, suggestions, try its or musings?

Rusty
Reply

Monica,

Recently someone suggested setting up a hive to look like a dog house. You could have a dog-like opening on one side, and the hive or hives in the back or sides. Have a hinged roof to give you access to the bees. Maybe someone here could design such a thing. Anyone?

Ken
Reply

Hi.

I am looking at starting beekeeping and currently in the “Mad dash, getting as much research done as possible first” stage and found this post on a vandalism google search.

First off, thanks for posting this article, it was a good read.

Something I am thinking of doing is getting all super technical with my hive when I put it in. I want to build it a year before I populate it to give the neighbours a chance to see it and expect it then I can also gage their reactions to it before spending a lot of money on the bees. (( See if they claim I am causing a problem, see if they invade my property etc ))

Any way, I was hoping you would be able to give me an opinion on what I plan on doing.

I live in a town house on a row of 4 houses (We call them terraced houses.) My garden is approximately 26x48ft long. At the top of the garden, the part that gets the most sun, I have a 15x10ft greenhouse and the shed next to it.

Below these we have a dwarf cherry and a dwarf apple tree. I want to place the hive between these then it is hidden on 3 sides directly. There is also a 5ft fence on the other side of the Cherry tree. The other side of the garden merely has a chain link fence.

Security wise I intend to put a sensor in the door that will be linked to a small computer with a wi-fi module which will be linked to a secondary one inside the house. That second one I will link to a camera and a small alarm. So that if some one opens the hive while the system is active, they would set off the alarm.

Do you think this is overkill?

Thanks

Ken

Rusty
Reply

Ken,

Well, there’s certainly no harm in setting it up that way, but in a residential situation like you describe, I think that neighbor problems (As in, “My children are all allergic to bee stings!) are more likely than vandalism. I get many letters from people who were caught keeping bees not because of the hive itself but because someone saw them wearing a veil. (If one has to wear a veil, they must be really, really dangerous.) I think I would get a green or camouflage veil if I had close neighbors. I hear about vandalism more often at hives that are out in the rural areas where kids can tip them over and no one is around to see.

Ken
Reply

I don’t think the allergy thing will come up but I have a concern with one of my neighbours daughters.

The way she acts, she is one of those that you want to watch when they are older. I have seen her sticking her hand into an ant’s nest and wrench nettles out of the ground bare handed while laughing.

As for the veil and suit. When I am in the garden I always wear thick, heavy duty cargo pants and some pretty substantial boots. I am also almost always found in a hoodie. I was honestly thinking of just going natural. No suit, no gloves and no veil.

My mother brought me up not to fear bees. I will happily sit in the garden with one taking a rest on my hand, I have even had one on my nose before.

Wasps how ever scare the living….. everything out of me.

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