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Beehive theft: a scourge for beekeepers.

How GPS trackers help.

Article – 08/12/2021

The theft of beehives is a real scourge for beekeepers who lose a significant investment (in total several thousand euros per hive if we count the equipment, the colony, the loss of productivity and the working time spent to make it productive). It is necessary to understand where this phenomenon comes from and what solutions exist to protect the bees.

Beehives: valuable assets for beekeepers

The beehive is a precious asset for beekeeping enthusiasts (professional or not). Indeed, although the structure has a significant initial cost, the quality of the swarm contained inside is essential.

A beehive is composed of a swarm including a queen, worker bees, forager bees and males. The price of a swarm (composed of 30.000 bees) is about 150€. Once full, the hive increases in value significantly, since it is worth about 1500€.
Bees from a hive are fragile. They are attached to their own hive and are likely to die if transferred to another. The queen is special, as she has the sole role of laying eggs, which makes her the rare and protected centerpiece.

The extinction of bees

The extinction of bees has been going on since the 1990s, but it is only now that the phenomenon is starting to worry professionals in the sector. Indeed, more and more beekeepers are seeing their honey harvests decrease due to several factors that are out of their reach. These factors are climate change (cold, rain), parasites (Asian hornet, American foulbrood) and pollution (pesticides, etc.).
This scarcity effect leads to an increase in the value of honey and swarms, which see their price almost double.

abeilles en extinction

Serial hive thefts
More and more beekeepers are having their hives stolen/degraded, to the surprise of professionals in the trade who had no idea of the extent of the phenomenon today. The losses are often enormous: dozens or even hundreds of hives are stolen with each crime, which represents heavy consequences, especially for professional beekeepers. In addition, there is psychological distress, linked to the natural attachment to bees and the sadness of seeing one’s work reduced to nothing.

Dadant beehives are the most popular with thieves. These are standard, basic hives that are easy to hide and have easy-to-remove identification.

Beehive thefts are directly linked to the scarcity of bees in certain regions, times of the year, weather conditions, etc. Indeed, professional or amateur beekeepers who suffer from a bad harvest or a too small colony lose the fruit of their work and do not make their investments profitable.

Rather than being in a loss situation, the beekeepers’ union suspects that a minority of beekeepers are stealing hives from other beekeepers. The news is even more difficult to digest when you realize that it was beekeeping enthusiasts who stole.

Groups on social networks (especially facebook) have been created between beekeepers to find the stolen beehives. This spirit of solidarity, also found on blogs, collectives and associations, shows the extent of the phenomenon and the critical situation.

How to equip yourself against theft?

The positioning of the beehives in the apiary must be optimal so that the bees can find nectar easily in the vicinity without being visible to everyone. The beehives are therefore often far from the beekeepers’ homes and cannot be monitored all day. More and more beekeepers decide to equip themselves and let their friends and family know about it: the objective is to spread the information about the surveillance of the hives so that the thieves will desist.

In addition to marking beehives with indelible (easily erased) lasers, beekeepers typically turn to two categories of equipment: cameras and GPS trackers.
The 4G video surveillance cameras used by beekeepers are self-contained, wireless and Wi-Fi-free. They use SIM card subscriptions and solar power. Their prices vary between 150 and 500€. The main added value of this type of camera is the image broadcast in real time from a mobile application on the smartphone. They can film the thieves or the license plate of their vehicle.
However, thieves often come with their faces hidden (by glasses, a cap, a hat, a scarf or a balaclava) and the license plates are not always in the field of vision, the cameras can become ineffective against experienced thieves.

The principle of GPS trackers is different. Once the hive is stolen, it can be tracked on a dedicated interface and then recovered without knowing the identity of the thieves.
The price of GPS trackers dedicated to beehives varies between 69 and 200€. The Capturs Beehive GPS tracker is the cheapest on the market, it is presented in the following paragraph.

traceur gps capturs pour ruches

Capturs GPS tracker for beehives

Capturs has understood the real need for beekeepers to never lose contact with their hives. In this way, a solution for tracking and alerting in case of theft of hives and their frames has been designed and developed to remedy hive theft.

The Capturs Beehive Model C GPS trackers are the ideal size to fit standard 25mm frames. They install easily and are camouflaged by the work of the bees.
The boxes are small, lightweight and self-contained. They are non-jamming, and therefore undetectable once installed. Since the GPS tracker is placed in a hive that, by definition, is stationary and does not move, it does not emit any waves 99.99% of the time. Therefore, the Capturs Hive GPS tracker does not disturb the work of the bees or their health.
The Capturs Beehive GPS tracker uses the Sigfox low bandwidth network, which will allow the beekeeper to have peace of mind for several years without having to change the object’s battery.

At the slightest movement of the hive or the frame that contains the hidden GPS tracker, an alert is triggered. An SMS and/or Email is sent to the designated persons via the Capturs interface (mobile application or web platform) with the following information: the name of the moving tracker, the date and time, the last position received and the real-time tracking link. If the alert is viewed quickly and the apiary is not far from the beekeeper, there will always be time to catch the thief in the act. If not, the beekeeper will follow his hive until it stops and can communicate his position to the police.

The Capturs Beehive GPS tracker is one of the cheapest trackers on the market with a price of 69€ HT. The investment of this small object is quickly profitable when you calculate the average price of a full beehive. Moreover, thieves are not satisfied with stealing only one hive, it is not necessary to equip the whole hives and the return on investment is better.

Traceur GPS Capturs Model C Ruche

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