Theft Prevention

Truck transporting beehives The value of renting a beehive, which provides critical pollinator services for high value crops like almonds, is at a record high in California. Unfortunately, this trend has also led to an increase in stolen hives. In response, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) launched the BeeSafe program to assist in preventing apiary theft. Our department routinely surveys for unregistered apiaries in Contra Costa County to verify that beekeepers are utilizing the BeeWhere Program.  All beekeepers with colonies located in areas that are not their personal residence are subject to a yearly marking and branding inspection. Colonies placed on agricultural land for pollination services are also required to identify their colonies.

Identification of hives

Food and Agriculture Code (FAC) section 29046 requires beekeepers to identify their colonies when bees are maintained on a premises other than the beekeeper’s own residence.  Identification includes marking in dark letters not less than one inch in height on a background of contrasting color with the following:

  • The name of the owner or person responsible for the apiary,
  • His or her address which at minimum includes city and state (example: Concord, CA)
  • Telephone number

Identification can be accomplished by posting a sign on the entrance side of the apiary, or by directly stenciling the hive.

Branding of hives

A brand serial number may be purchased from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as an additional security measure for theft prevention.  FAC section 29055 makes it unlawful for any person to have in possession any apiary equipment with any serial number brand other than his or her own.  Brand inspections are performed to regulate the use and management of brands.

The purchase of a brand serial number through CDFA is optional.  

Movement of bees

Beekeepers are required to notify our department when bees are moved within the county, between counties, or out of state. Notification must be provided within 72 hours by telephone or electronically using the BeeWhere Program.

Reporting stolen hives

If you suspect your beehives have been stolen from any of your registered colonies locations in Contra Costa County, please contact our department immediately.  Please be ready to provide the following information:

  • Location where the hives were placed
  • Name and phone number of the property owner
  • Timeline of events
  • Number of colonies missing and their value
  • Identifying features, including colors, markings, shapes and/or brands
  • Pictures that will help identify your hives and/or equipment

Resources

California Rural Crime Prevention Task Force

CDFA Apiary Brand Program 

Guardian/CDFA article on bee theft

National Geographic article on bee theft