Whether it be stolen bee colonies, sealed up entrances to hives or destroyed honeycombs, harmony among Loweer Saxony's beekepers has been disturbed, reports the Hamburger Abendblatt.
There has always been bee theft, said Klaus Ahrens from the apiarists' association in the north-western state. “But this year it has become a real problem.”
That was confirmed by hobby apiarist Nico Martins who said “in our region three or four bee colonies go missing in a normal year – this year 44 have already disappeared.”
In another Lower Saxon community 67 colonies have gone missing.
But police say it is difficult to track down the culprits because the bee hives are situated away from residential areas and the culprits act at night.
“Normally they leave no clues behind, it is really difficult,” said police spokesperson Rainer Bohmbach.
But now the beekeepers are setting up a sting operation which they hope will catch the thieves with their hands in the honey pot, so to speak.
“We're arming ourselves,” said Ahrens. “At the moment outdoor cameras are being set up and the hives are going to be tracked with GPS.”
They are also searching for stolen hives through social media.
The financial loss accrued from one stolen colony amounts to €200 to €300, the apiarists' association estimates. Including honey this amount can increase to €600 to €800.
But for beekeepers who have nurtured the bees, it is not only about the money.
“The spiritual value of a bee colony is considerably higher,” says Jürgen Frühling from the Hanover beekeepers' association.