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Branding Beehives to Establish Ownership

It is an unfortunate fact of life that theft of beehives occurs and is becoming more common. (Branding is also useful when two or more beekeepers share a site or equipment and when BKAs lend equipment. R.P.)

When I started keeping bees, I decided that I would brand every item, even frames, and as I was intending to have many hives, I thought that it would be a good idea to make a purpose built device, based on a gas torch. I am a resourceful sort of chap and I made the brand itself from a chunk of copper 80 mm x 25 mm x 10 mm and formed my initials "DAC" in relief, but mirror imaged, by using an engraving machine. I used "fridge magnet" children's plastic letters to make the engraving template and I used a reduction of four to one on the pantograph.

The picture at right shows the torch which screws onto a butane gas canister... A flame spreader is used to match the flame shape more nearly to the block of copper that it is heating. I was concerned originally, that copper may oxidise at such a rate that the brand would deteriorate, but after 25 years or so use, it produces just as crisp a brand as it ever did. Branding torch

The Brand on a Frame Topbar I usually burn the brand about 1 mm deep so that the depression will show up even if the wood becomes bleached. This frame top bar is typical of the results.

This brand has been exposed to the weather for about half, of it's twenty years plus, lifetime. All traces of the carbonisation have gone, but the message is unmistakable. A Weathered Brand

When I had 130 colonies, all my hive parts, though not frames, were branded with my initials. Being an engineer, I made the brand myself out of scrap steel. I also made one for Wisborough Green BKA. They are both heated up to red hot and I can brand at least half a dozen parts before needing re-heating. I have seen lots of different brands including initials, postcodes and logos. For those who are unable to make their branding irons, a websearch will find many options varying in size, price and complexity. One slight problem comes when equipment is sold, where there are options to indicate change of ownership, such as paperwork or branding upside down, over or close to the original.

Branding to deter theft, especially in an out apiary, is probably the most common reason. If someone steals a hive, it's probably the bees that are more attractive than the hive. Branding in a way that is difficult to cover up, such as deeply, may deter thieves, although a hive can be burnt or taken apart and branded parts reworked or replaced. Branding the frames is probably a good idea, although they won't be noticed until the thief opens them up. This won't deter determined thieves, but might aid recovery. R.P.

Originally written by Dave Cushman. Edited and additions by Roger Patterson.

Page created Summer 2001

Page updated 31/12/2022

Originated... Summer 2001, Revised... 17 October 2001, Revised... 07 September 2003, New Domain... 12 August 2004,
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