In 1952, a beekeeper paid Don Kuchenmeister 25 cents an hour to put frames together.
Now, the Lula man makes his livelihood with 200-500 hives in his bee yard and Dixie Bee Supply.
“Where can you take $100 bill and double your money in less than a month? I teach you how to do that, legally, not selling dope,” Kuchenmeister said.
On Sunday, May 13, Kuchenmeister discovered more than 100 hives were missing along with other equipment. He told the Banks County Sheriff’s Office the value was $40,000.
Kuchenmeister said he believes a truck pulled up to his bee yard and grabbed the hives.
“They seemed to get all the ones that were ready to go. They knew something,” he said.
The sheriff’s office said an extra patrol would be set up for the next couple of weeks in his area.
“About 1 o’clock I came out here and sat here with my pistol. I was waiting for them to come on the property,” Kuchenmeister said Tuesday, May 15, of the thieves.
Georgia Beekeepers Association President Linda Tillman said hive theft like that seen with Kuchenmeister’s bees is rare.
“The person doing that kind of theft has to be pretty well-trained in order to do it,” she said.
Kuchenmeister also said the thieves may have learned from watching his videos on YouTube, as the Lula man has built an online reputation in the beekeeping field.
A man came on to Kuchenmeister’s property Tuesday afternoon, May 15, and said he saw a 2016-2017 model Z71 truck around the time of the theft.
Soon the bee yard will be outfitted with trail cameras, motion detectors, barbed wire and a gate. Walking through his yard, Kuchenmeister pointed to the gaps in the multicolored rows of hives.
“The multicolor is their GPS. They locate that color. Then they get close enough, they go by smell,” he said of his bees.
Kuchenmeister, also known as “The Fat Bee Man,” used the nickname as a joke in a chat room nearly 30 years ago. He has made it his living for roughly 50 years, with classes year-round.
Kuchenmeister said he helps veterans get into beekeeping as a calming activity. He said he believes the thieves would likely try to sell the bees.
Tillman said people purchasing bees for the season know to order in November and December. Those who may decide to become beekeepers outside of the prime ordering time will buy something advertised in the Farmer and Consumers Market Bulletin.
“Anybody who had those bees would easily be able to pass them on to another beekeeper, and it wouldn’t even have to be clandestine,” Tillman said.