Hive thefts put Quebec beekeepers on high alert

The second beehive heist in as many months has put Quebec beekeepers on high alert.

Four of 30 hives in latest heist part of cross-Canada research project looking into rash of bee deaths

Anne-Virginie Schmidt says 30 hives were stolen from her apiary, Les Miels d'Anicet. (Les Miels d'Anicet)

The second beehive heist in as many months has put Quebec beekeepers on edge and has them considering extra security measures.

Thirty hives were stolen Sunday from the Miels D'Anicet apiary in the Upper Laurentians town of Ferme-Neuve.

Beekeeper Anne-Virginie Schmidt said the incident has everyone concerned.

"All beekeepers in Quebec are now afraid of being robbed," Schmidt said in an interview.

"We thought we were protected here [in Quebec]. Now we'll have to put some GPS, some cameras. It's a lot of work and more money."

Honey bees congregate at one of Les Miels d'Anicet's hives. (Les Miels d'Anicet)

Schmidt said she's heard of such thefts happening in Europe and in the United States, but not in Quebec — until this year.

The theft follows another incident at the end of April in which 180 hives were stolen from a beekeeper in Saint-Valère, in the Eastern Townships.

Police later arrested a man from the Laurentians in connection with that theft, but the hives have not been recovered.

In Schmidt's case, police are now looking into reports of a blue truck that was spotted by locals carrying hives on Sunday.

Les Miels d'Anicet operates a total of 1,500 hives. (Les Miels d'Anicet)

Stolen colonies unlikely to survive

Schmidt isn't confident the hives will be found. If they are, she doubts the colonies will survive — a fact that hits the beekeeper hard.

"We're attached to our bees, you know. Our bees are like our animals. We go to see them every week, and we look at them and make sure they're healthy. It's like someone going onto a farm and stealing 30 cows."

The growing popularity of beekeeping is leading many to try their hand at the business, and she thinks that might explain the recent hive thefts in Quebec.

"Some want to go fast, and they don't have the money," she said.

"They think this will be easier."

Anne-Virginie Schmidt said four of the stolen hives contained honeybees involved in a Laval University research project. (Les Miels d'Anicet)

Lost research

Rebuilding the stolen colonies will take time and cost money, but it shouldn't affect production too badly at Miels D'Anicet, which owns 1,500 hives. 

In another way, however, the loss may be hard to estimate.

Four of the stolen hives were part of a Laval University-led research project looking into the recent upswing in bee deaths in Canada and internationally. 

"This is really bad because it was for all the industry," Schmidt said.