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View Full Version : Whidbey Island WA beekeeper loses thousands in honey theft



EastSideBuzz
10-13-2010, 09:21 PM
This kind of thing makes me sick.

http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/whidbey/swr/news/102981559.html

By ROY JACOBSON
South Whidbey Record Reporter
Sep 15 2010

He’s been working with bees for 40 years, but David Neel of Freeland has never been stung like this.

Somebody entered the field north of Coupeville where his beehives are set up and made off with several thousand dollars’ worth of fresh honey, Neel said Monday.

“It was just blatant and cut and dried, and could only be a theft,” he said. “And the way it was done tells me a beekeeper did it.”

Neel, two years into a commercial venture he’s trying to nurture, has about 100 beehives scattered from one end of Whidbey Island to the other to take advantage of the season’s wild berries.

This is the first time honey has been stolen from his hives on the island, he said. “This is a new event for me.”

The missing honey was in 16 hives of two stacks each set up at Lavender Wind Farm on Darst Road between Coupeville and Oak Harbor.

“About a month ago, they were completely full of honey almost ready to harvest,” Neel said. “When I checked them last week, they were completely empty.”

Well, not completely. Each hive contains 10 trays, Neel said. Some honey was left in the top levels, to make it look as if the hives hadn’t been touched.

But the rest of his trays in the hives had been taken, and replaced with empties, many of which had never been used for collecting honey, Neel said.

“At first glance, they looked to be okay,” he said of his hives. “But they weren’t stacked the way I left them.”

The result was more than 150 missing trays filled with honey, which Neel had planned to put in jars and sell — the work of thousands and thousands of bees gone for good, at least as far as Neel is concerned.

“The bees looked fine,” Neel said with some relief. “They didn’t try to take the bees themselves.”

Neel said he filed a report with the Island County Sheriff’s Office, but was told there probably was nothing that could be done unless additional incidents were reported.

Neel said that he expects his stolen honey will be put in jars and peddled — and the jars won’t be carrying his labels.

He said the poor economy may have had something to do with the theft, but added: “They probably wanted a product to sell.”

Neel, 46, owner of Island Apiaries, became interested in bees when he was 6 years old, thanks to a beekeeper uncle.

“He thought it was time I put on the suit,” Neel said.

For two years, Neel has been collecting honey commercially, putting it in jars and selling it at several farmers markets and retail outlets on the island.

He also keeps about 200 hives off-island, mostly for bee cultivation, while focusing his honey harvesting on Whidbey, he said.

Neel hopes eventually to have 500 hives, and said that next year he may also hire some extra help. So far, he’s been doing all the work himself, driving from Clinton to Oak Harbor in his brown truck with the bee decals — and sometimes real bees — sticking to the sides.

Besides jars of honey, he also sells honeycombs, along with items made from beeswax, such as candles.

“Anything my bees can produce, I package and sell,” he said.

Neel typically repays landowners who let him set up his hives with 10 percent of the honey harvest.

“Even in a bad year, I can usually scrape together five gallons,” Neel said.

He said the theft of his honey is particularly galling because it takes so much effort just to keep the bees focused.

He said that thanks to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon in which worker bees abruptly disappear, beekeepers nationwide often lose

90 percent of their honey bee populations.

“To be so concerned about your bees, and to have a healthy crop, then to have something like this happen, it feels like no matter what you do, you’re just doomed,” Neel said of the theft.

He said he hopes a little publicity will produce some results.

“Maybe somebody out there knows something,” he said.

Neel can be reached at 331-1905 or by e-mailing david@islandapiaries.com.

South Whidbey Record Reporter Roy Jacobson can be reached at rjacobson@southwhidbeyrecord.com

Laurence Hope
10-13-2010, 10:44 PM
Thats a real bummer! I have heard of thefts of bees/hives/honey, but never frames of honey and those being replaced with empty frames.

hipifreq
10-13-2010, 10:56 PM
:eek:

That's just wack

:cry:

I think I'll contact my friends on Whidbey to see if they've heard about it. They grew up there and know lots of people in that area. Perhaps someone had been grumbling about not getting a harvest and now has tons of honey to sell?

Countryboy
10-14-2010, 07:09 PM
I don't think we are getting the real story. Something seems awfully fishy to me.

The missing honey was in 16 hives of two stacks

What the heck is a hive with two stacks? 2 supers on the hive? A two box hive?

Why would a commercial beekeeper run 10 frames in his honey supers?

150 frames missing, which is 15 supers, but these 15 supers were taken from 16 hives. (They must use different math than I was taught in school.)

What size boxes were these? Deeps? Mediums? Shallows? If they were 30 pound mediums, 15 boxes is only 450 pounds - you'd have to have a good retail market to call that 'thousands' of dollars worth of honey.

Don't get me wrong. It's unfortunate if some thief did extract his honey - but better reporting is definitely in order.

waynesgarden
10-15-2010, 10:18 AM
I don't think we are getting the real story. Something seems awfully fishy to me.

I smell no fish from here so I have no reason to doubt that the beekeeper lost thousands of dollars of honey. Sure the story, obviously written by a non-beekeeping reporter, contains terms like "stacks" and "trays" but who cares?

What's so unusual about a small beekeeper making thousands of dollars selling jars of honey from even a 450 lb yield? Lots of markets will support a price of a little less than $4.50. ($2000/450=$4.44)

The point of the story is that there seems to be a beekeeper out there stealing honey. That sucks.

Wayne

wildflowerlanehoney
10-15-2010, 10:44 AM
I don't think we are getting the real story.

thank you for your careful observations and use of math skills, but it looks to me the point of this is about someones work and lively hood being stolen.

stealing is stealing, that is wrong. i don't care it you are stealing rocks from someone's driveway or cars or honey, they may never get caught, which i hope they do, but in the end, they WILL get what they deserve.

KQ6AR
10-15-2010, 01:47 PM
450# on the west coast market for local honey, would be $4500

I also find it odd the thief returned empty frames. Maybe his bees consumed the honey.

loggermike
10-15-2010, 02:01 PM
My cordovans could EAT that much in a month:rolleyes:

brac
10-15-2010, 02:05 PM
How many theives will take your supers, remove the frames, and replace them with other frames "some with honey".

Is there an insurance claim?

waynesgarden
10-15-2010, 02:50 PM
How many theives will take your supers, remove the frames, and replace them with other frames....".

Exactly the same number of honey thieves that might think their thefts won't be noticed? Perhaps they think if the guy doesn't notice, they can keep on "harvesting" his honey.

Wayne

bigmitch
10-15-2010, 04:34 PM
its funny that someone would take the frames and extract them ,and bring them back???

Countryboy
10-15-2010, 07:13 PM
If someone was willing to work that hard at being a honey thief, why wouldn't they just run their own bees?

IF the guy did have honey stolen, I certainly hope the thief gets caught and punished, and the beekeeper adequately compensated - but something about this story just seems awfully fishy to me.

Daddy'sBees
10-15-2010, 07:41 PM
Unfortunately it sounds like it's time for some trail cameras.
:shhhh:

BeeCurious
10-15-2010, 07:59 PM
If they find a thief, I'd like to know if he/she used Bee Quick or Bee-Go...


Countryboy, it does seem fishy.

Bens-Bees
10-15-2010, 08:19 PM
I don't think we are getting the real story. Something seems awfully fishy to me.

I agree but for different reasons... the way it was described, it sounded more like the flow stopped and the bees ate the honey during the dearth. This guy sounds like a new beekeeper that isn't familiar with how much the bees can eat during a dearth.


Why would a commercial beekeeper run 10 frames in his honey supers?

150 frames missing, which is 15 supers, but these 15 supers were taken from 16 hives. (They must use different math than I was taught in school.)

Well, it could be 9 or 8 frame supers... the article never says what he runs... also it could be that not all frames from some boxes were "swapped with empty ones"...


What size boxes were these? Deeps? Mediums? Shallows? If they were 30 pound mediums, 15 boxes is only 450 pounds - you'd have to have a good retail market to call that 'thousands' of dollars worth of honey.

If he bottles them himself, then it's not a stretch... $5/lb. or better retail is not that difficult to get for local honey, esp. up there with the health conscious consumers around the Seattle area.

BeeCurious
10-15-2010, 08:27 PM
If the bees consumed the honey how do you explain the following:


But the rest of his trays in the hives had been taken, and replaced with empties, many of which had never been used for collecting honey, Neel said.
:scratch:

Bens-Bees
10-15-2010, 08:30 PM
How does he know they had never been used for collecting honey? That's what I'd like to know... if he's saying that just because they were empty and not capped, well that fits with the whole bees ate it bit.

BeeCurious
10-15-2010, 08:45 PM
And if there is no foundation, or undrawn foundation?

Bens-Bees
10-15-2010, 08:54 PM
Then it would be more likely to be a theft, but the article doesn't make that clear which is why I remain suspicious.

BeeCurious
10-15-2010, 09:04 PM
I like this statement the best:


He said the theft of his honey is particularly galling because it takes so much effort just to keep the bees focused.

:)

Bens-Bees
10-15-2010, 09:15 PM
That's part of what made me think he's a newbie that didn't realize the bees would consume the honey during the summer dearth. Maybe even had a few hives get robbed hence might have also had wax torn out too.

waynesgarden
10-15-2010, 09:33 PM
That's part of what made me think he's a newbie

Newbie? 40 years of beekeeping experience and 300 hives?

How do you define "experienced" then?

Wayne

BeeCurious
10-15-2010, 09:35 PM
That's part of what made me think he's a newbie
Snip

What did the following make you think?


He’s been working with bees for 40 years,

Bens-Bees
10-15-2010, 09:39 PM
He doesn't even look 40.

He may also have only had 1 hive for a number of years that he only checked once a year or that someone else took care of for him, then got 300 more this year to try to jump into commercial beekeeping.

brac
10-15-2010, 09:47 PM
Speaking of not looking 40, his suit and veill look about 5 minutes old. Anybody else with 40 years of bee keeping have gear that looks like that?

Bens-Bees
10-15-2010, 09:53 PM
Speaking of not looking 40, his suit and veill look about 5 minutes old. Anybody else with 40 years of bee keeping have gear that looks like that?

My suit and veil didn't look that good after day 1.

waynesgarden
10-15-2010, 10:01 PM
He doesn't even look 40.

He may also have only had 1 hive for a number of years that he only checked once a year, then got 300 more this year to try to jump into commercial beekeeping.

Ben, you're stretching things a little tight to prove the guy's a fraud. The guy lies about his age now? Lies about a theft? Lies about his experience? Lies about recognizing that frames in his hive aren't his? Doesn't know the difference between new frames and combs that have been robbed out? You know that the guy is unaware of bee feeding behavior in dearths?

This story is a month old. Was he lying about the supers being full in August? In all your experience of keeping bees in the Puget Sound area, do you know for a fact that there was a dearth between mid-August and mid-September there and that his bees ate the surplus?

You are making way too many guesses about this. For what?

Wayne

waynesgarden
10-15-2010, 10:10 PM
My suit and veil didn't look that good after day 1.

Oh, well, that's different. Now you've found the smoking gun! He cleaned up for the camera crew.

Contact the local District Attorney and present your evidence of fraud and we can all sleep better.

Wayne

Bens-Bees
10-15-2010, 10:20 PM
Ben, you're stretching things a little tight to prove the guy's a fraud.

I'm not trying to prove he's a fraud at all, I'm just saying that I'm suspicious. I'm sorry that my being suspicious bothers you so much, but you're going to have to accept that I'm not going to automatically give him the benefit of the doubt no matter how much doubt there is. We'll just have to agree to disagree and move on to other threads. Sorry I ruffled your feathers.

green2btree
10-17-2010, 11:41 AM
The problem with this story is the problem with most news stories - they are always light on the details. The reporter doesn't know to ask "Were the frames undrawn?" "Did you get X amount of honey from that location before?" Reporters are trying to get a good story, and things can get confused. I have had news stories written about things I have been involved with, and more than once I have looked at the finished product and gone "I didn't mean THAT!"

I could see someone replacing the frames like that to try to hide the theft (maybe figuring the bees would refill the frames enough to cover it up) especially if they were planning to hit the hives or other hives again.

People steal weird stuff. The only motivation I could see for the beekeeper making the theft up would be insurance fraud (which hardly seems worth the bother for the amount unless he is in a real short term bind) or for wanting his 15 minutes of fame.

I would like some more info on the whole thing.

JC

bigmitch
10-17-2010, 05:42 PM
he says the theif replaced his frames? after extracting them,or just stuck in different ones? that would be like a theif stealing copper sprinkler pipes and replacing them with plastic! i dought a theif would bother replacing anything,,and dought he would leave the hives,he would probably take them all and be the new owner of the hives,frames,and bees! :eek:

G3farms
10-18-2010, 06:32 PM
I can see it since the same thing happened to me several years ago at a college campus where I had five hives of bees. They were located in the edge of the woods at the end of a big hollor. The College called me to come and remove the bees because they were going to build a dam across the end of the hollor and make a big pond out of it. Dad and me went up very early one morning to pick them up, was going to use their front end loader to put them in the back of the truck but to our surprise were light, too light. These were double deep brood boxes with two to four shallows on them and were mostly capped just two weeks prior, now were empty. They extracted the honey and replaced all of the wooden ware. I think I know who did it but could not prove it. It sure was a long sad ride home. This was about 1984.

Island Apiaries
02-06-2011, 07:44 PM
I never knew this thread was here! I am the beekeeper whose hives were robbed. Believe me, I understand those of you who are skeptical. If I had heard the story as an outsider, I have to admit that I would probably be voicing the same doubts. The person who brought up the topic of the reporter using a lot of creative license was right. I am fairly young, the beekeeper for 40 years came from me informing him that I started beekeeping at age 6 with my uncle. I had told him I was commercial for only 3 years.
I had been in the hives shortly before and they had been very close to harvestable and it was on my return that I found the theft.
The hives had drawn frames with plastic foundation and the frames I discovered had undrawn wax foundation that the bees had built minimal comb, so it was very clear that they were not my frames. The reporter called on route and I did pull a newer suit out as I was fairly certain I would be filmed and felt I needed to be presentable to the general public.
The reporter also asked about the value of the loss and I responded that it was several hundred pounds and that I typically sold in the Seattle area for $9/pound and that information was what he based the amount reported on.

edward
02-07-2011, 12:09 AM
If they harvested your plastic frames they might have just scraped of the comb and honey into a container and put the harvested frames back at the same time.:(

In my neck of the woods some malicious thief stole new queens + frames from mateting boxes and put back moldy and very questionable frames that looked unhealthy in the boxes to try and hide the theft.

Double diabolical on two levels , not only did they steal , + the potential for the spreading of disease with old frames.

I don't want to get in trouble with the moderator so i wont write what i think about the culprits and what should be done to them if they are caught

mvh edward :P

green2btree
02-07-2011, 10:19 PM
I am new to beekeeping and I have already had these thoughts - should my hives be up near the house where they can be seen from the road? Or if I put them on the back of my property where you can't see them from the road, I can't see them and they still can be spotted from the park's access road. It's a sad world....

JC

Island Apiaries
02-08-2011, 06:20 AM
Hi JC,
The best I can say is place your hives where they are easy for you to work. While the theft was a VERY bad experience, it is FAR from the norm. I do have some yards that are very secluded from sight, but others are in clear view and I do this intentionally. The hives mentioned in the story were at a lavender farm that is a tourist destination here on Whidbey. I use them for community outreach and to teach beekeeping classes. In all the time I have kept bees as an adult (30+) years, I have only had 2 incidents of people stealing or vandalizing them. Talk to the other beekeepers in your area, they will be the best sources for advice in your area. The main thing is to put the hives where you can work them comfortably and efficiently. Hives that are a pain to get to, may get neglected.
Good luck!
Dave

ACBEES
02-08-2011, 06:59 AM
Finally an argument in favor of keeping africanized bees.....sure would eliminate theft....just kidding:lookout:

green2btree
02-08-2011, 07:33 AM
Well, I have to admit, that I had the thought at Halloween that if teenagers got it into their heads to vandalize the hives that they wouldn't do it for long if they messed with my Tower of Power girls. (A nickname I gave one of my hives that is productive and defensive.) :D

I did decide to leave my hives near my house where they are easy to work and enjoy. I don't lose sleep over it. I do make it a point to check them after Halloween or the local big football games, the same way I would check them after a big storm, or after the cows get out.

JC

arnaud
02-08-2011, 10:37 AM
Some of my hives are pretty visible from the road - especially considering the bright colors I paint them in.

Then again, just 30 feet from them, in the carport, there are target shooting stands I use at the range with targets showing pretty well grouped shots.

So the potential thieves are warned.

Island Apiaries
02-08-2011, 10:58 AM
Maybe you should post the stands next to the hives just to be sure they see them!:D

msapostol
02-08-2011, 03:31 PM
I'm not surprised especially with all the bees dying out there. Someone's desperate and these are hard times. Not that I'm condoning the act. It sucks, and I'm glad our bees are in the backyard away from public sight.