Bee Hive Theft – round two!

In early November, an isolated area of the grounds at Compton Verney received a visit from thieves in the night intent on removing, unbelievably, our two bee hives. A link at the bottom of the page describes that nocturnal visit, but this post is to bring news of a second visit where thieves aimed to remove the one remaining bee hive.

Compton Verney bees – second theft attempt (c) Compton Verney/Rod Oates

This second attempt succeeded only in removing the top section, the hive yet again being dropped scattering bees all around. Many of the bees would at this time be clustered inside their hive sheltering from the chilly temperatures, but whilst they don’t necessarily hibernate, they don’t tend to venture out in the cool December weather either – the sudden exposure could well have killed the entire colony had we not been quick to spot the problem.

Volunteer Beekeeper Rod Oates trying to save the bees from the cold (c) Compton Verney

After taking stock, our volunteer keeper Rod rebuilt what remained of the hive, and the decision was made to relocate the hives to a more prominent and secure location. What became apparent through reporting of the crime was that this may not be an isolated case of ‘bee rustling‘. We thought it best this time around to compile a press release in an attempt to both appeal for help in re-establishing new hives in the Spring, and also to raise awareness to the threat of bee rustling.

Rod Oates, the Compton Verney bee keeper talks to Stacey Foster from ITV News (c) Compton Verney/Gary Webb

The response has been very welcome and reassuring, with our news being picked up by local journalists who have been keen to run the item. This morning I kicked off at first light with a brief telephone interview with Shane O’Connor on the BBC Coventry & Warwickshire breakfast show. Following this we entertained both a BBC Midlands today reporter Kevin Reide, and Stacey Foster from ITV; both making reports for news programmes due to air tonight. (ITV Central news at 6.00 and BBC Midlands Today at 6.30).

Rod exhibits the remainder of the bee colony that are clustered safely inside the re-assembled hive. (Viewed through a temporary glass cover to protect them from the cold!) (c) Compton Verney/Gary Webb


We hope in the least that our coverage raises the profile of the threat of bee rustling locally in time for other keepers to review the security of their hives – more visibly marking hive sections as a deterrent is recommended. In addition to this, we certainly aren’t deterred from bee keeping, and shall be looking in the new year to re-establish some new hives in their new location. Should anyone reading be in a position to offer donations of either bees or indeed hives, we would be very grateful. If you are able to help please call Aly Grimes on 01926 645 547

Furthermore, if you have experienced bee rustling, or can offer advice on reducing the potential for this crime, then please do comment below and we’ll spread the word!

I’d also like to give an extra note of thanks and appreciation to Rod Oates for rising to the most recent challenge, especially at a time when bee keepers (as gardeners) are thought to be warm and snug indoors, and bees too should be safely tucked away after a hard years work!

Gary Webb.

Previous bee hive theft post.

5 thoughts on “Bee Hive Theft – round two!

  1. Dear Compton Verney Beekeepers,

    As a fellow beekeeper you have my sympathy, but I think you have misjudged what has happened. If this was genuine bee rustling then the hives would have been taken away. ‘Professional’ bee rustling takes place when the bees have survived the winter, colonies are growing, and there is a huge demand for nucs to make up winter losses among novice beekeepers, or a demand for colonies for pollination. Your pictures of turned-over hives are strongly reminiscent of an incident I suffered with one of my apiaries in Chipping Norton – vandalisation by children. In my case the frost allowed the route of entry to be tracked and the source of stones initially thrown at the hives. The row was kicked over until a somewhat tetchy lot were reached – it seems that the assailant then beat a retreat. Why relegate the apiary to a remote corner? With a proper risk assessment, there is no problem keeping the bees in a more central location. I am a long-standing beekeeper with just under 100 colonies, live just a few miles south of Compton Verney, and will be pleased to advise and support you.

    OK, publicity through the media elicits support and sympathy, but there are measures you can take – re-siting, and education of the local community would be far better than claiming theft – that glorifies the vandalism and rewards the assailants. Lastly, claiming there is a thief when it is vandalism, not theft, creates a false alarm within the beekeeping community.

    I hope I am not too harsh!


    1. Dear Will,
      Many thanks for your feedback, it’s encouraging when articles are responded to and I think that your comments are very well placed, especially with regard to ‘professional’ bee rustling. Following investigation we believe that bees themselves weren’t the main target for both of our incidents; your point in respect of time of year confirms this – therefore the term ‘bee rustling’ may well be misplaced.
      Our decision to ‘go-public’ however was based on a definite attempted theft of both of our hives, on two separate occasions. The hive remains photographed on the ground were due to the whole hive being dropped as they were carried complete to a vehicle. In summary, we started with two intact hive structures, and are now left with around 25% of the original set.
      Ultimately we felt that other bee keepers might benefit from an increased awareness of the potential for bee hive theft. Our efforts in this direction were readily harnessed by the media, helping to spread our news but running with a focus on bee rustling, which may not have helped to dispel fears amongst bee keepers – point taken indeed.
      Our loss may well have been by the hand of opportunists, but it does indicate that hives themselves can sometimes be a target, meaning security as well as hive location ought to be a consideration for bee keepers. In light of this we will be security marking our hive sections from now on, and our hive will be in a more prominent location.
      I hope our experience and feedback doesn’t spread unnecessary alarm, and I can confirm that we as a team are as dedicated to the cause of bee keeping as we ever were. Your words weren’t too harsh at all, and I hope these words help reassure you and others that our efforts are well intentioned.


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