manuka honey theft, thefts, beekeepers

Beehives Stolen in New Zealand

Graham Wilson, a Kerikeri beekeeper with over 25 years in the industry, had almost $100,000 in beehives stolen off his property in the last eight months. Robbery of beehives is a new crime trend evolving in Northland, New Zealand and the thefts continue to be a problem – in most cases, beehives are located in remote areas and the thefts are occurring deep in the night, making them virtually impossible for local law enforcement officials to identify the criminals and to combat the activity.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” said Wilson in an interview with Otago Daily Times Online. “The guys work hard to prepare the hives, then they come back and they’ve gone.” Wilson notes that the beehive thefts began to become a problem at the same time that the price of manuka honey increased, even though manuka honey is only a small part of New Zealand’s total honey production. Wilson has lost almost 40 hives to thieves from the Kaikohe, Kawakawa, and Kerikeri areas since October 2014.

While beehive thefts come at an expense and a hassle for beekeepers, it also poses a threat to the manuka honey industry. Hive thieves are unlikely to register the stolen hives and note their new location. This means, should a disease break out among the honeybee colonies, it would be very hard to control and even harder to trace the origins of the sickness. With beekeepers’ frustrations on the rise, Kawakawa police are launching a plan that will hopefully make a difference in the honey industry.

Courtney Sandilands, a constable of Kawakawa, explains that there are two types of thefts taking place –planned thefts in which the perpetrator has inside information about hives located in very remote areas, far from public road, and “opportunist” thefts where individuals simply decide to take hives they see on the side of the road. Sandilands believes that many of the thefts that have taken place recently were committed by the same small group of people, since many of the situations were similar in nature.

Beekeepers in New Zealand are required to register themselves with the New Zealand Beekeepers Association and use their association number on their beehives as a means of identification. One of the countermeasures officials encourage beekeepers to implement is to place their association number on all of their beehives, helping law enforcement to match the beekeeper with the stolen hive after a sighting. Additionally, Sandilands encourages beekeepers to place their hives far from public roads.

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