For years now, the theft of honey bees around the world has been a major problem. In Australia and New Zealand, where Manuka honey is harvested, bees are as valuable as gold bars, so beekeepers are always on the lookout for never-do-wells. Here in the States, the problem is far worse, and many believe it is their fellow beekeepers or at the very last, individuals with significant bee handling experience. I mean, let’s face it, snatching up dozens of hives is not exactly for the inexperienced.
Recently, in the East Valley area of Arizona, a family-owned honey company, the Valley Honey Company, suffered a horrible loss. George Brenner III and George Brenner IV have been running the company as father and son for more than 10 years. They have stored their bees just outside of Queen’s Creek for quite some time, but now they are yet another statistic in the recent bee theft trend.
In all, the Brenner’s lost 56 hives estimated to be worth more than $50,000. As Brenner stated, “It’s our living.” They are not hobbyists doing this for fun; they are beekeeping to put food on their table, so the news of the theft was a crushing blow to their business. When they discovered the theft, it was as though it was a personal attack. Because the bees are kept in a private area and the considering the size of the heist, Brenner believed the theft must have come from someone that both knows bees and knows their property very well. He stated, “It’s just a gut punch. You work so stinking hard to keep them alive, healthy and strong,” then poof, they are gone. He added, “You just feel violated and you’re like, ‘We’ve got to do something about this.’”
Rather than just take in on the chin, the Brenner’s took to social media to share what happened and hoped someone could provide some information that would bring the thieves to justice. Just as important was knowing who this person was that tried to steal their livelihood. The posts went viral of sorts, with tips starting to pour in. Eventually, the tips led to a property in Wickenburg and the son set up his own sting operation.
Brenner IV apparently investigated the property on his own and found the alleged thieves trying to remove their branding from the hives. He then called in the Maricopa County Sherriff’s office to help bring their hives back home. Brenner believes the bees were more than likely headed to California to help pollinate almond crops. They alleged thieves would have probably sold them outright so they would not have to worry about shipping them back at the end of the season. And, as expected, the Brenners know the thieves.
The case was eventually turned over to local authorities, in this case the Pinal County Sheriff’s office. While the thieves have been identified the hives recovered, red-handed we might add, the Sherriff’s office is still investigating the case and has not yet pressed charges.
Source: 12 News