bee hive vandalised

Watch: Criminals now steal 41 bee hives off KZN farm

Beekeepers have warned that the theft and vandalism of bee hives in the country is so rife that it presents a threat to food security.

bee hive vandalised

Criminals are hitting KwaZulu-Natal bee hives in a spate of vandalism and theft with yet another incident reported in the province this week.

The latest devastation has promoted local beekeepers to appeal to the government and the police to raise the theft and vandalism of beehives to the level of stock theft, saying that food security is now under threat.

Matthew Walker, owner of Beekeepers World in Hilton said it was the first time in his beekeeping career that his business had been hit by commercial theft.

He said the incident appeared to be well organised theft because the suspects had arrived in a Bakkie, cut the Umlaas Road farm’s security fence, and proceeded to steal 41 hives.

A video that Walker made of the devastating loss on the farm, where his hives are kept, has been shared on social media. Watch the video here:

“Last night the farmer got back at about 11pm and noticed one of the boxes smashed and the fence cut. He noticed that a hive was missing and reported it to the local security company,” he said.

Walker said the hives were getting ready to be moved to provide pollination services to KZN farmers including avocado and macadamia nut plantations. 

“A bakkie was used so it wasn’t just theft and vandalism but commercial thievery. Some people in the area are stealing bee hives just for the sake of the honey. Something is going to have to give in the industry because the knock on effect is not just the effect of equipment,” he said.

“Now the farmers are going to be short of hives for pollination services this season. It’s a very sad state of affairs in beekeeping in KZN at the moment,” he said.

Walker said it was not just the cost of equipment loss that hit beekeepers but the lost revenue from pollution services. He said it would cost around R84 000 to replace the hives.

“We are pleading to the government and the police to get involved. South Africa is the only beekeeping industry in Africa that is not supported by the government, be it for research or prevention of theft,” Walker said.

He said other African governments supported beekeepers because of the value of bees to the eco-system and national food security.

Craig Campbell, who owns one of the largest beekeeping operations in the province in Howick, said he was considering packing up beekeeping for good due to the ongoing crime. He has worked as a beekeeper for the past 30 years.

“It is heart breaking. It is gut wrenching, I have had enough now, I am seriousl thinking of packing up  beekeeping,” he said.

A video of the recent vandalism of Campbell’s hives went viral on social media last month. He said the estimated losses of the 235 hives that had been destroyed was around R700 000. So far he has lost a total of 400 hives to theft and vandalism.

“It is ongoing,” he replied, when asked how many times he had been hit by criminals who had vandalised or stolen bee hives this year.

Both recent cases have been reported to the police for investigation.