and the hilarity that ensues…
If you’re like me and have been reading the German civil code for fun in what little spare time you have, check out Section 3, subsection 960. You’ll notice some interesting legislation on the subject of ownership.
There may be some entertainment to be found by shedding some light on legislation regarding wild animals, and specifically the ownership of a swarm of bees.
Let’s start with the definition.
Swarm: a large or dense group of insects, especially flying ones.
Now let’s look at how the German Civil Code deals with situations involving densely packed groups of bees.
My swarm of bees is flying away! What do I do?
Well, it would seem that your only option is to chase after them.
Loss of ownership of bee swarms:
Where a swarm of bees takes flight, it becomes ownerless if the owner fails to pursue it without undue delay or if he gives up the pursuit.
— German Civil Code § 960–61
Wait… So If my bees fly away apparently I have to chase after them, or else they’re not mine anymore and are considered wild animals per subsection 96o. I suppose that makes some sense.
But pursuing them … what does that mean exactly? What if they fly into someone’s house? You can’t follow them can you?
Wait, it just flew into my neighbors empty beehive! Those are my bees in there I’m sure of it!
Well, my friend the german civil code has you covered.
Right of pursuit of the owner:
The owner of the swarm of bees may, in pursuit, enter on plots of land belonging to others. If the swarm has entered an unoccupied beehive belonging to another, the owner of the swarm, for the purpose of capturing it, may open the hive and remove or break out the combs. He must make compensation for the damage caused.
— German Civil Code § 962
So as long as you are legally in pursuit of your swarm of bees, you are considered to be the owner, and can invade other people’s property, and even destroy it. As long as it’s for the bees and you pay up later.
Hey wait a second, I think there were already bees in this beehive that mine flew into…
The German Civil Code handles this as well! Telling you that you’re basically out of luck. If your bees fly into someone else’s swarm; you’re basically screwed.
Intermixture of bee swarms:
If a bee swarm has moved into an occupied beehive belonging to another, the ownership and the other rights in the bees that were occupying the beehive extend to the swarm that has moved in. The ownership and the other rights in the swarm that has moved in are extinguished.
— German Civil Code § 964.
The thing that really strikes me is the sequence of events that must of occurred in order for this series of laws to have even been established. And it only gets better! The civil code goes on to list a statute for what happens when different swarms of bees have merged together.
At some point; someone had to have said, “Hey look! Those are my bees over there! Flying toward that other swarm of bees that someone else is chasing! Are you kidding me?!” And I guess this must have happened a lot because we now get to this.
Merging of bee swarms:
If bee swarms of more than one owner that have moved out merge, the owners who have pursued their swarms become co-owners of the total swarm captured; the shares are determined according to the number of swarms pursued.
— German Civil Code § 963
Even if you owned the majority of the swarm it doesn’t matter.
Deutschland sagt, “saugt den Imker soundrel saugen!”
Let’s imagine a hypothetical here. Ten swarms are flying around one particularly unfortunate neighborhood, followed by an army of 5 beekeepers flailing around with pitchforks, butterfly nets, torches, and katana swords destroying everything in their path(legally of course).
Two of them rightfully owning their respective swarms, another chasing after two different swarms that happened to escape from him, and a third who hasn’t lost any bees but happens to like running in mobs. etc.
What happens if they happen to merge together into separate, but larger swarms? Or what if gasp they all combine together to form the überSchwärm?
Well… I don’t want to be the guy stuck counting out a swarm of bees 10 ways; I’ll say that.
Also a quick shout out to Shy Ruparel and Sam Agnew who originally mentioned German Beekeeping law as an attempt to entertain the crowd.