“It’s easy for people to steal several beehives at a time. This means you lose your wooden hives with honey, bees and everything. It’s is a huge loss,” says Louis. And theft is not the only problem. “People vandalise or burn the wooden hives. We also have to contend with veld fires that destroy our hives.”
The plan he devised for protecting his beehives from theft and fire is called the “bee bunker.”
“It is a cement casing with the same internal dimensions as a wooden hive. The drawers in which the bees make the honeycombs fit in the cement hive in the same way.”
The bee bunker has a heavy-duty, tight-fitting concrete lid that has a special key locking mechanism. Louis doesn’t want to reveal the secret of the mechanism, but says it’s extremely difficult to access the honey without the right equipment.
The drawers are made of wood and wire, the same as is commonly used in a wooden hive.
“The bee bunker is also too heavy for one or even two men to carry away. It weighs about 200 kg and where we place it, that’s where it stays. The concrete is also fireproof. Serious fires can still damage the bees and honey, but the bunker will not catch alight like a wooden hive,” says Louis. If the bee farmer wishes to move his swarms, he will have to catch the bees and move them in ordinary wooden containers.
Louis first experimented with different wall thicknesses. “We had to make sure the bee bunker was sturdy enough to withstand vandalism. The structure also had to be sturdy enough to be moved if a farmer needs to do so. We have worked out the best structure and are satisfied with the honey yield from our bee bunkers.”
He has 150 bee bunkers in operation. “Not one has yet been carried away or had any honey stolen from it.”