Shame on the photo thieves

I am finding it hard to get motivated to post anything after last week’s wholesale theft of a photo I posted here. The photo of a honey bee secreting wax from her wax glands was the work of one of my regular readers and is truly awesome. The trouble started like this:

Last week after I wrote about photographing bees, I invited readers to share their own successful photos on my site. But after this particular photo came in, I double-checked with the owner to make sure it was okay to post—I didn’t want any misunderstandings because I knew the photo was good enough to get lots of attention.

Within minutes of posting, it began showing up everywhere. Of course, when you post photos online you expect them to get tweeted, pinned, mentioned, linked, Facebooked or whatever, but you hope for a link back to your site. Most people play fair. But the first big irritation came from a popular beekeeper who re-tweeted the image. First he posted the image to his own Facebook page and then sent out a tweet that linked back to that page. In the tweet he included a link to my site as a parenthetical, but we all know that no one is going to follow both links. When I went to his site, I found a non-linked mention of Honey Bee Suite but no photographer name on the photo.

This really irked me because, without an active link back to my site or a photographer credit, the owner gets no recognition whatsoever. This beekeeper proceeded to get something like 172 Facebook likes and 200 shares to my 40 likes. The comments on his site are nearly all the same: “great photo, awesome, wow!” Wouldn’t it have been nice for the photographer’s name to be on the damn picture? Wouldn’t be nice if she got just a little of the credit?

Of course, when something goes viral it goes everywhere—and, indeed, this photo went everywhere. Without trying very hard, I found it on at least two dozen sites. The reputable people give credit; most don’t bother. I didn’t actually lose my temper it until someone on accused me of stealing the photo from someone else’s Facebook page. Can you believe it?

I’m not naive; I realize theft goes with the territory. I know photographers whose work has been stolen for commercial purposes. I know of photographers who have found their work with other people’s copyright notice attached. I have had my own written work republished under someone else’s name. So it’s no surprise that it happened with this photo—but that doesn’t make it right.

It’s hard to say where the line should be drawn. One person wrote to say she immediately shared the photo with her bee club. In my way of thinking, that is great. That’s what these photos and articles are for—to teach, to illustrate, to inform. They should be passed around in the spirit of sharing and learning. For that reason I have never—not even once—said no to someone who asked permission to use either my photos or my writing for non-commercial purposes. But to post work and give the impression it is your own—even if you don’t specifically say it’s your own—is low. It’s even worse when you’re trying sell something.

And in this case, the permission to republish was not mine to give. The photo was graciously shared with me to post, but since I don’t own it, I can’t decide to give it away. Shame on all of you who think the rules don’t apply to you. Did even one of you stop to think how you would feel if it was your photograph? No one is asking for money here, just a little recognition. I suppose I’m an idealist, but we beekeepers and bug lovers are a small enough community that I would expect a little mutual respect within our ranks. Is that too much to ask?

I’m in a quandary. I have so much unfinished business here on Honey Bee Suite. I’d like to share my recent success with the Girl Scout pollinator project, my plans to battle the Washington State Department of Transportation over alkali bees, my enthusiasm for matching native bees to their preferred forage, my recent experiences with triple deeps, HopGuard, and Hive Tracks—and my love for anything to do with bees. But the website is so much work and the fouls so numerous, that I wonder if I shouldn’t continue on in silence and let someone else deal with the morons. It’s something to think about.


P.S. For all of you who linked back and/or named the photographer—and there were many—my heartfelt thanks.


Johnny Mason on Facebook

As someone who has sat down to dinner in an Applebees, only to see one of my photos turned into wallpaper and plastered on their wall, I feel the photog’s pain. :/

Jodi Moger on Facebook

My mom and I both shared your link on Facebook. Then today waxed poetic about the pic while we searched for a queen that has been eluding me for two months. Must have been good energy because we found her!


That photo was the highlight of visiting your site last week. Sad that it turned out so sour.



I feel your pain. You could add a watermark to your photo, right across the center so it’s hard to crop out. I make all my posted images small enough that one could not do much with it.


andy brown


Don’t let ‘em get you down. The web’s bad enough without more of the good folk being driven off. For $20 or so you can get software that lets you put a watermark on any photos that you post. It will only inconvenience the true thief, but I suspect a lot of this is just thoughtlessness. I’ve been thinking that I should do the same thing on my blog. I’ll let you know how that works out . . . .


RUSTY … You provide a much needed Service to the world of bee managers. The world of bees is a much healthier place due to the honest unbiased atmosphere in which you provide information to your readership. There is always a small number of self-centered people who will take undue opportunity and put claim to things that really isn’t theirs to own. If the world had more servant leaders to plant the seeds of knowledge so that the whole world would benefit … It would be a great place to be. Just remember that a few pissants will always through rocks in the pool to cause ripples. Your pool is large enough to handle few stones thrown. We love your shared knowledge and look forward to ever blog you publish. My bees are productive because of the knowledge you share with the word! Thanks for dedicating your life to the world of bees and want-to-be managers and real bee managers. When your on top of the world … People will through rocks! Keep – on!


Well, it goes without saying, people will always take something and make it theirs, especially on the internet. That is a great photo for sure! And I personally want to thank those who did the right thing and giving the credit where it’s due. Please don’t let this get you down Rusty. You have a great website and it is valuable. I just recently found it myself and have been reading a lot from it. Would hate to see it disappear. I know how you feel as I have had pics stolen and used with people not giving credit where credit is due and some taking credit for my pics. But being an ex-cop who worked computer crime for 12 years, I’ve learned one thing. If you don’t want people stealing your pics, don’t post them unprotected on the internet. Sad people can’t respect other people’s work! But keep the site going and move on. It’s just too valuable to trash it!


I’m sorry that happened, Rusty! PLEASE don’t give up Honey Bee Suite. I’m new to your site and have already learned so much. I appreciate what you do here as I’m sure so do many others.


Sorry to read about this. Recently a paper a colleague and I wrote for a conference ended up cut and pasted onto some jerk’s website as his own. Plagiarism seems to be rampant online. Sad. Please don’t let the scoundrels out there stop your great work.

Did you correct BeeSource?


There are good people, there are bad people, all you can do is help the good ones. On the bright side, at least the theivery got a picture out there further, that was informative and therefore beneficial to bees. On our group site,, I edit the pics used to stamp credit into the image.

Please keep up the good work for the sake of us nice people.


Please don’t stop the good work. When I first stumbled across the blog and site, I assumed you were the stereotypical old(ish) beekeeper with a wealth of experience. I was refreshed to find none of the didactic ‘You must do this, or that’ injunctions in your texts, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that your knowledge has been gained over a relatively short time i.e that you are young. Beekeeping has been a challenge this year in the UK. Reading your daily(ish) entries on diverse topics has been a welcome part of my coffeebreak catchup with emails, and I am looking forward to many more good reads.

Kindest Regards


You know how they tell beekeepers not to give up because of losses/varroas/SHB/tracheal mites/ETC? Don’t give up what *you* do. I am a 2nd year beekeeper (my 1st year resulted in 2 failed hives), and I look forward to every communication from your site. So, I’ll be waiting to hear about HopGuard and the rest of…whatever you release. Thanks!!!! Carole


“Don’t let the bastards wear you down” (Latin escapes me at the moment) :-)


I love the photo. And thank you and the photographer for sharing it and bringing it to all of you us. As infuriating as it is, as much as a selfish, inconsiderate act that it was, your posting was more positive than the negatives it engendered. Bees are about harmony with nature. The good natural thing to do is to contact the Facebook author directly and ask for clarification and a follow up posting. If it doesn’t happen let it go. “Slap me once shame on you, slap me twice shame on me” ( Or my something like that ). Your blogs are too good to stop. Perhaps some of your readers should also ask the person for correction. Things will get better. Good luck.


Big sigh. Sorry you are distressed about the bee butt photo theft. It
is a remarkable photo.

Thinking you are buying grief here. The picture owner shared it with
you. You graciously shared it with “us”. Jerks stole it and used it
for their purposes. We can only expect people to be people. A filthy
lot, on the whole, rising on occassion to greatness when least

Of course they are jerks. It’s like expecting 5 year olds to act 20. A
lovely hope but not what one can reasonably expect. They do what they


The picture and others are great. Take pride in your accomplishments.


I’d suggest you take a week or two off – you deserve it for sure!

For the record, I love your blog and web site. It is the only one I faithfully read. You have a true gift of writing and you are so knowledgeable (and have a terrific sense of humor). I am a new beekeeper and I have learned a lot from you. I hope you do not let this discouraging event (and the past heartaches too) get you down. Keep the faith.


Thanks. A week off sounds like heaven . . .


Count me in too! I look at your site almost daily & have learned so much from it-& appreciated personal replies when I had what seemed like a desperate problem with my bees! Take that week off…


I’m sorry about the photo troubles…but please don’t stop the website! I’m a new beekeeper and LOVE reading the email subscription–such inspiration and education to future bee keepers!


1st year-1 hive, three supers deep, Amarillo, TX


I agree with many others…I read your blog religiously and actually depend on all the information you have here…amazing work by you!
And like Susan said above, the personal replies to our desperate situations are great appreciated!!

I can really understand your frustration, it is just wrong to steal photos. Some people suck!
I REALLY want to hear about your 3 deeps!
…big fat watermark…

eric : GardenFork.TV

sorry to hear about that. this is the big reason i’m reluctant to use flickr and similar sites.

i’d contact the guy who lifted it and posted it on his own facebook feed, and ask him to remove it. if he doesn’t, public shaming works real well.

and i watermark everything that i post. on the GardenFork.TV site we use a plug in that automatically watermarks all photos in each post. its called Watermark Reloaded, there may be other plug ins that work too.

before i post any photos elsewhere on the web, like facebook, i watermark them in Photoshop with our domain name. its a pain, but it shows everyone you mean business.

Gary Fawcett

Hi Rusty, yes it be a pain in A#@ when people do that, even whose when people copy and paste your entire blog posts :(

I found a plugin that automatically puts a watermark on images, as you upload them to wordpress. Not at home at the moment, but email me later for the url.

This works for us, as we have multiple authors and all pictures get the watermark on them.

See ya…Gary


Sorry to hear about this mess. Thank you for sharing that amazing picture! And shame on the dishonest people, they should know better :(
I say take a break, take a deep breath, and come back when the black cloud dissipates. I would hate to lose such a valuable resource that I only recently found. My mom and I are new to bee culture and this is our first year of beekeeping! So much to learn!
Do what makes YOU happy! Chin up!


Dear Rusty,

I think you are right on every point you made. I completely understand the quandary you are in. I blog also and although it’s just a personal blog for mostly my family to keep up with mine, I would never dream of posting something there without giving complete credit and links to the source. It’s beyond bad manners not to do so, it’s theft, in my opinion. I think you would be entirely within the bounds of fairness to post something on that beekeeper’s blog/fb page and point out to those who follow him what he has unfairly done.

That said, however, I would feel bereft without your regular posts. I am a new beekeeper here in Utah — this is only my second year — and I have learned so much from what you have shared. I get so many questions from my children and friends, and my daughter who beekeeps with me is fascinated by the one hive we have. What you post helps me answer their questions intelligently. I love the pictures you post. In fact, today I wandered around my yard with my little point-and-shoot camera in an attempt to capture something interesting (I don’t think I did, but it was fun anyway), thanks to the things you have posted.

Please continue to share. It’s inspirational, interesting, and so helpful to me (and probably loads of others too).

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