Bee on the lookout: Beekeeper stung by bold beehive thieves

Honeybee theft is on the rise

A Montana beekeeeper’s livelihood was essentially wiped out when thieves allegedly stole almost 500 hives of bees.

Lloyd Cunniff, the victimized beekeeper, was taking his hives to California to pollinate almond trees, a potentially lucrative business opportunity he told the Los Angeles Times he hoped would help offset this year’s disappointing honey crop. But his plans were thwarted by bee bandits Cunniff believes must be fairly sophisticated. He said he left his pallets of bees overnight in a storage facility in Sutter County, and they had all disappeared when he returned.

Cunniff told the Los Angeles Times the honeybee heist likely required a forklift, and two trips in a flatbed truck. He said the thieves made away with 190,000 bees.

“This isn’t some fly-by-night guy who decided to steal some bees,” he said.

Mr. Cunniff said the theft will result in the loss of several hundred of thousands of lost income, although he does have insurance. Still, he said he is “going to start over from scratch now,” as he only has one remaining colony of bees.

Honeybee theft has been on the rise in California, due to rising prices for the pollination of almond trees, which will not flower on their own.

“Hive theft is not a problem that will go away,” the California Beekeepers Association said in a statement. “Beekeepers, bee brokers, and almond growers need to be vigilant and work together to prevent hive theft and catch those responsible.”


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