Friday, 28 August 2015

Some odd Canadian news: mostly beehive theft

Friday August 28, 2015: Twelve full beehives were stolen from a field in Innisfail, Alberta. That was a loss of about 600,000 bees, and honey, and hives, totalling about $10,000.  The beekeeper, Kevin Nixon, is offering a $1000 reward for information that helps find them.

The Nixon honey farm on Wednesday.  You can see the stands where the hives are missing (CBC).

I can think of two possibilities here:

1. Someone wanted to start a beekeeping operation, for free, with very heavy hives carried from the field and loaded into a truck by hand, while full of agitated bees.  That doesn't seem like a very good plan, aside from the loss it cost Nixon.

2. Activists have "liberated" domestic honeybees.  Not a good plan either.

While I was reading about this, I found a bunch of other cases of honeybee theft, and I wasn't even looking for them.  Beehive theft has been a growing problem for a number of years (more under the cut).

 - Grande Prairie, Alberta, July 2012.  150 hives were taken over several weeks, for a loss of about $60,000 which was not covered by insurance. Bill Termeer suspected somebody else in the industry stole them.  The province's chief beekeeper said that bee thefts were rare, but expected to increase as new diseases and parasites killed bees and people looked for ways to replace them.

 - Abbotsford, BC, July 2012.  100 hive frames with half a million bees and about 3,600 kg of honey were stolen, for a loss of $100,000.  Bee theft rare but large scale thefts reported that year in Alberta and New Zealand.  The president of the Surrey Honeybee Centre said that the theft would be complicated and you would have to be a semi-experienced beekeeper to pull it off.  He speculates that the culprit is likely a small-time contract pollinator, who would rent bees to farmers to help pollinate their crops.  Because of the falling bee populations, they would need more bees to fulfill their obligations to farmers.

 - Coldstream, BC, July 2014.  Five hives are stolen, each weighing between 50 and 150 kg, for a loss of $10,000.  Thieves would have had to have knowledge of the industry.  There were several beehive thefts from the Vernon area the previous year.  Honey is valuable and hard to trace, and the hives are full in late summer.

June 2015, Staffordshire, England.  A farmer finds a beehive off its stand and carried to another field.  He suspects that when someone tried to steal it, the bees must have come out and defended themselves.  It's a foolhardy thing to do, especially if you're not very experienced.

Chicago, May 2015.  Three beehives are stolen from a city park.  The supervisor of the Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Division of Natural Resources says he hasn't heard of any other cases in Illinois, but it's common in states such as California, where there is a high demand for bees to pollinate almond trees and other crops.  And honey prices are high due to falling bee populations.

“It’s like cattle rustlers, people who know about bees that steal them are like bee rustlers,” [American Beekeeping Federation vice president Gene] Brandi said. “Generally, bee thieves are people who know about bees and know how to handle bees.”

Date unknown.  The British Beekeepers Association is urging beekeepers to get their hives micro-chipped so police can identify them if they are stolen.  The proportion of hives stolen is small, but it does happen.  "Only beekeepers are likely to have the contacts to sell on colonies of bees as these are not easily sold as one-offs to other than beekeepers."

Modern Farmer, October 2014.  Since Colony Collapse Disorder began decimating hives by the thousands across the United States in 2006, the incentive to steal bees is greater. As rural law enforcement and the courts struggle to keep up, commercial beekeepers are stepping in to catch the bee rustlers.

The problem of bee theft is relatively minor and low-priority for law enforcement, and beehives can't be impounded or kept as evidence.  It’s hard for cash-strapped rural county law enforcement to contact witnesses for interviews and pay for their accommodations should a case actually come to trial.

There was one major case in California where Viktor Zhdamirov was arrested for stealing hundreds of hives from a field where they had been placed to provide pollination.  More than two years went by before Zhdamirov was put on trial, for what was eventually valued as a $65,000 bee robbery.
Yolo County did convict Zhdamirov and he received a three-year sentence in the county jail and restitution payments of $65,000.

Joe Romance, a commercial beekeeper based out of the vast almond growing acreage surrounding Bakersfield, also organized his own effort to recover 180 stolen bee boxes in January this year. Not too long after his hives went missing, a stranger showed up in town with an odd proposition.

It was apparent to the local beekeeping community that something fishy was up when a “new person who said they were local,” Romance says, “approached a bee broker saying they were looking to rent out bees. Except nobody knew who this guy was.”

So Romance and his beekeeping friends set up a sting.

One of Romance’s beekeeper friends posed as an almond grower looking to rent bees and called the new beekeeper. He offered very top dollar to rent the “local’s” hives, $250 apiece, just so he’d be allowed to view the hives. As soon as Romance’s undercover beekeeper friend saw men inside the “local’s” razor wire-enclosed bee yard, grinding beekeeper brands off of hive boxes, he called Romance. Since the bee rustlers were currently engaged in illicit activity, Romance called the Bakersfield sheriff.

Sheriff’s deputies were delayed by several “shots fired” calls. When deputies arrived after a few hours, Romance and the undercover beekeeper entered the illegal bee yard with them. Romance recognized some of his own hives. He informed deputies. They interrogated two men working in the illegal bee yard and arrested one of them. They had to let the other go.

“He convinced them he really didn’t know what was going on with the bees or their hives or where they had come from,” says Romance. The man arrested quickly made bail and disappeared. At least Romance says, he was able to recover his hives.
[...]   With increasing awareness on the part of law enforcement of the importance of bees to California’s economy and the willingness of beekeepers like Romance to educate them, perhaps bee rustlers will find their crimes less profitable in the future.
(Modern Farmer).
August 28, 2015.  Perhaps the narrowest detached house in Toronto, at eight feet wide, is up for sale for $750,000.  Which is very low for a detached house in Toronto, but then, it's eight feet wide and has two bedrooms and three bathrooms and no parking space and is 1,000 square feet.  It was built in 1890 with only one story, and then more floors were added later.  It does have a garden which is just as narrow, surrounded by a wooden fence.  There have been a lot of inquiries already, because of the novelty factor.

Friday August 28 1015: On the Gorge waterway in Victoria, BC, a crane that was loading scrap cars onto a barge apparently tipped and dumped 50-100 crushed cars into the water.  No one was injured, but that's going to be a pain to clean up.

 CBC August 28, 2015.

A scientist with Environment Canada has been put on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation for creating a politically charged protest song about ousting Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

Tony Turner, a physical scientist at Environment Canada and longtime singer-songwriter in Ottawa's folk music scene, wrote the controversial tune Harperman. Turner was sent home in mid-August, according to his union, over concerns that his song breached Environment Canada's value and ethics code.

The song touches on the Duffy trial, Harper's spat with Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and includes highly political lyrics like "Who muzzles the poor scientist?" and "Won't buy into climate change until it's sold on the stock exchange." Its chorus ends with the blunt line "Harperman, it's time for you to go."

Turner has been a public servant for nearly 20 years and was planning to retire in roughly one month. He was working on a project involving migratory birds.

Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), confirmed to CBC News that Turner is under investigation. PIPSC is the union which represents federal scientists.

"[Environment Canada] is alleging … [Turner] has violated the departmental code of values and ethics in that the writing and performing of this song somehow impeded his ability to impartially study migratory birds," she said.

"There doesn't seem to be a lot of formal grounds to base this in and certainly the courts have been loud and clear on the matter of how public servants can legitimately participate in a federal election."
A spokesperson for Environment Canada wouldn't comment on the case, citing privacy, but said public servants are expected to comply with the values and ethics code, regardless of their job.

Turner told CBC News he is not speaking to media while the investigation is ongoing.
A video for the song was recorded in June and posted on YouTube, where it has racked up more than 50,000 views. The video includes more than 40 different singers who belt out the chorus. They're fronted by Turner on guitar. [...]

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