Hives and Honeybees

General investigative information and tracking the movement and stock piling of bees in the Central Valley is presented below.

General Investigative Information

Courtesy of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department

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Bees & Hives Training Bulletin

This Training Bulletin was created as a reference for investigating thefts related to bees and to help the investigator understand some of the terminology used by beekeepers. Figure 1 depicts a commonly used hive. From top to bottom, the top portion of the hive is called a lid and will sometimes have a glass jar or other container placed on top for feeding the bees “sugar syrup”. The second layer of the hive is called a shallow honey super (used only during honey season). The third layer of the hive is called Upper deep (food chamber). Inside of the food chambers are the frames (depicted in figure 2). Each wooden frame contains a single sheet of beeswax foundation. The frame is kind of like a picture frame. It firmly holds the wax and enables the beekeeper to remove these panels of honeycomb for inspection or honey extraction. The fourth layer of the hive is called a bottom board. The bottom board is the thick bottom floor of the beehive. During pollination season, you could see hives stacked on a wooden pallet one, two, three or four high. The pallet will typically hold four hives per level.

The type of equipment used to load hives for travel is called “Bob Cats”, a “swinger” or a forklift. Each hive can weigh up to a couple hundred pounds. Beekeepers typically move their bees in the evening when the bees are not flying. The small ventilation holes are usually covered with tape while using a window screen across the front entrance of the hive preventing the bees from flying out, while providing the bees with adequate ventilation. If the temperature is below 53 degrees the bee typically will not come out of the hive. A good beekeeper will never put hives in an enclosed container or covered it to the point where there is little to no ventilation, because the bees will suffocate. There is no enforceable law that requires the beekeepers to have paperwork when transporting their hives, however if the beekeeper is out of state, he should have some form of documentation showing that the bees were inspected prior to entering California.  Since bees are used all over the United States, the movement and storing of bees may vary depending on what state the bees originate from. The following information will assist in tracking the movement and stock piling of bees in the Central Valley.

JAN-FEB       Bees are removed from stockyard and placed in almond orchards.

MAR-APR     Bees are moved to avocado, kiwis and orange orchards.

MAY-JUN      Bees are placed in fields for onions, cantaloupes, watermelons,                        etc.

JUL-AUG      Bees are places in cotton fields and sunflower fields.

SEP-OCT      Bees are being placed in stockyards for the winter. Typically near a                        water source.

NOV-DEC     Bees are in stockyard or moved to the coast for a warmer climate.

Apiary Requirements and Violations

29046(a)(1) FA Any apiary on the property of another must have one-inch dark letters on a contrasting color, on the opening side stating:

1)   The owners name.
2)   The owners address.
3)   The Owners phone number, or the fact that he has no phone number.

29055FA No one shall possess any apiary equipment, with the brand or serial number of another, without a bill of sale from the registered owner of the brand or serial number.

29056FA It is unlawful for anyone to:

a)     Use any brand of number not registered to the user.
b)     Alter, deface, remove, and obliterate any brand on any apiary equipment.
c)     Be in possession of any equipment on which any brand has been altered, defaced, removed or obliterated.



Apiaries and honey extraction plants may be operated in any district in which they are listed as

Permitted subject to the following conditions:

a. An adequate fresh water supply, of sufficient quantity and quality, must be made available or exist naturally to prevent the bees from creating a nuisance around any public road, street or highway, residence or other occupied building. If the County determines that a nuisance exists, then the beekeepers will be required to relocate the beehives in excess of the minimum setbacks established by this ordinance.

b. When placed near public roads, bees being used for crop pollination may be placed, in groups not to exceed twenty (20) hives spaced not less than three hundred (300) feet apart, ten (10) feet from the public road right-of-way or twenty (20) feet from the edge of the pavement (which ever distance is furthest, in no case on the public road right-of-way) ten (10) days before, during and ten (10) days after the bloom period for almonds and plums during February and March. During crop pollination, no beehives may be placed less than seventy-five (75) feet from any public road intersection.

c. Beehives may not be placed less than one hundred (100) feet from any public road right of- way, except as specified in “b.

d. Beehives may not be placed less than two hundred (200) feet from any residence or other occupied building other than that of the property owner or occupant of said property except by written permission of such persons affected.

e. Honey extraction plants may be permitted, provided that they be placed not less than one hundred (100) feet from any public road, street or highway, residence or other occupied building other than that of the property owner or occupant of said property except by written permission of such persons affected.

(Subsection 2 added by Ord. T-254 adopted 4-27-81; amended by Ord. T-273 adopted 5-17-83)

For more information, please contact Task Force Member Rowdy Freeman.