Rogue beekeepers and dirty tricks blamed for rise in Belgian hive heists
150,000 bees stolen near Tessenderlo in latest incident, as interest in hobby grows
Dirty tricks by rival beekeepers have been blamed for a rise in hive thefts in Belgium after huge growth in interest in the hobby.
Following the disappearance of 150,000 bees from hives near the Flemish town of Tessenderlo, keepers have been advised to keep a keen eye on their insects and alert the police to suspicious activity.
Luc Aspeslagh, chair of the General Flemish Beekeepers Association, said he had received a growing number of reports of thefts from Belgian apiaries.
Such was the difficulty and danger in stealing bees that the thieves were most likely to have come from within the beekeeping community, he said.
Aspeslagh told De Standaard newspaper: “In recent years I have noticed an increase in the number of cases. Bees – and their value – are more of an interest nowadays.
“A layman can at most steal the honey from a cabinet [holding a beehive]. Maybe a beekeeper does not have any bees after the winter and therefore he is looking for a quality new bee population. Or it is someone who wants to benefit from the potential yields of a hive. We also see that there is just jealousy in the game: beekeepers who will remove the better bees from someone else.”
The thieves in the Tessenderlo case are believed to have had to use a trailer to carry away the hives, such was the size of the haul. Should they pot the honey and sell it at the market rate, it is estimated they could make as much as €1,000 from the crime.
The bees’ keeper, named only as Patrick, said the remaining bees had reacted badly to the theft. “The thieves must have come with a trailer, because the beehives do not fit in the car and are too heavy to carry alone”, he said. “The remaining bees are traumatised and aggressive.”
The bees had been the subject of monitoring by the University of Ghent as part of research on pollen, and the study will have to start afresh next year.