A growing number of beehive thefts in the Bay of Plenty are concerning the region’s beekeepers, who are going to extraordinary lengths to prevent stock disappearing.
Hives at Tauranga beekeeper Roger Walmsley’s Rog Bee’s Limited.
A Maketu beekeeper says queen bees, hives and gear – worth hundreds of dollars – are being stolen “at random” and “from all over the Bay”.
Richard Klaus’ comments come after SunLive recently reported two hives were stolen from Katikati-based company Kiwi Coast Apiary.
Richard, a beekeeper of 15 years, says other than “the odd theft about 10 years ago” it has only been a real issue in the Bay during the last two-three years.
“It’s ever since the honey crisis. This is all in conjunction with the rising honey prices and the demand for bees in kiwifruit and avocado pollination.”
Richard has been a victim of theft himself, when he had “some hives pinched” two years ago.
“It’s not a nice feeling when you turn up and they’re all gone.”
More recently, other Bay of Plenty beekeepers have had their queen bees stolen, mostly at night.
Richard suspects the culprit is another BOP beekeeper hoping to expand their own business.
“It’s a beekeeper – I have no doubt about that. Are you willing to go through some beehives and take all the queen bees out?”
With the Western Bay of Plenty having the highest population of beekeepers nationwide, it is easily a target.
And recently, it’s not just the hives being targeted, but more specifically rearing hives containing queen bees.
Richard says hives are not sought-after lately, just the queen bees.
“At this time of the year you can’t get queen bees. You can only rear queen bees from October through to the end of March. So if you haven’t got a queen, your hive will die out over winter.
“That’s why people are doing this. They’re taking our queens and putting it into some of their hives.”
Beekeeper Roger Walmsley, from Rog Bee’s Limited, has had 200 full fives stolen during the last six years.
“It’s really, really frustrating. This is destroying my business.”
Three years ago, 50 hives were stolen from his Tauranga property. With each hive costing about $400, Roger says he was devastated.
“Not to mention the loss of turnover.”
As he had no security cameras installed, the police could do nothing.
This year he thinks he’s got on top of it, with only six hives stolen.
“We’ve gone from an individual hive that someone can pick up manually to four hives on one pallet, where you would need a machine to lift it.”
Richard says BOP beekeepers are now going the extra mile to make sure their hives are safe by moving them away from visual sites such as the road, or placing them behind locked gates.
“Some are even putting microchips in the beehive as a tracking device.”
Recently, Richard installed a camera and moves it from site to site, aiming to catch any hive thieves.