15 Sep 2017

Beekeeper arrested after mass hive thefts

4:45 pm on 15 September 2017

Police have arrested a beekeeper in relation to the theft of nearly $200,000 worth of beehives in the Bay of Plenty.

Beehives in Waikato

(file photo) Photo: Supplied / Kate Newton

A 46-year-old Bay of Plenty man was arrested in Northland and charged with burglary and receiving stolen property.

Police recovered 120 hives last week, and said they found 80 more when they arrested the man.

To date, Bay of Plenty Police have recovered around $150,000 to $200,000 worth of stolen beehives and beekeeping equipment following a spate of thefts in the region.

Detective senior sergeant Greg Turner said the trade was lucrative and people would go to great lengths to pass stolen hives off as legitimate.

"Those hives [have] been disguised with false grower numbers stamped on them."

Apiculture New Zealand said beehives have become the target of organised crime and the arrest was a good start.

"It's really good to see that the police are starting to get results," its chief executive, Karin Kos, said.

"We've known that this has been an issue for quite some time and that the police have needed to step up and take it more seriously and clearly that's happening."

Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos said it was good the police were starting to get results.

"We know this has been an issue for some time and that the police needed to step up and take it more seriously and clearly that is happening."

Ms Kos said the thefts of beehives had been growing over the past few years.

"The increasing value of New Zealand honey particularly Mānuka honey is likely to be a factor, and we understand from talking to the police, taking hives has become attractive to organised crime."

She said hive thefts could devastate a beekeeper's livelihood.

"There are ways to make them more safe, where possible keep hives in paddocks away from public view, tracking devices and outdoor surveillance where ever possible is a great idea and of course reporting the theft and movement of hives."

Just two weeks ago almost 50,000 bees were stolen from a remote forestry block near Napier. Owner Duncan Johnstone from Arataki Honey said he believed experts were targeting rural areas, as only the best hives were taken.

The beekeeper charged with stealing the hives appeared in the Whangerei District Court today and was remanded in custody.

Police said if anyone saw hives being moved on unmarked trucks in the North Island they should call the police.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs