The California State Beekeepers Association is now offering a reward of up to $10,000 for each tip that leads to the arrest of bee thieves. That’s because the theft of bees and hives is becoming an increasingly costly problem—and the crimes aren’t limited to California.
Bee populations have been in a state of decline for over a decade, which make the remaining healthy colonies even more precious. Bees are important members of our food system, and they’re responsible for pollinating all kinds of crops, from almonds to eggplants. Bee keepers often rent out their hives to farms, and now less ethical bee keepers are preying on other apiaries.
According to the California State Beekeepers Association, it’s likely the thieves are professional bee keepers themselves. ”It's pretty easy to steal [bee] hives, if you know anything about commercial bee keeping, and the payoff is pretty good," Carlen Juppe, a spokesperson for the organization, told the local ABC 10 station.
The thefts can cost bee keepers thousands of dollars. In one incident in San Joaquin County, 144 hives were stolen in March. Another beekeeper from Stanislaus County said that he’s suffered from three bee heists in three years, and recently interrupted a fourth.
But the problem isn’t only in the U.S. NPR recently interviewed Katie Hayward, a beekeeper in North Wales who estimates 45,000 bees were stolen from her historical farm and education center.
“We use these bees to teach children with special needs, and we use these bees to teach people not to be frightened of bees,” Hayward said. “So for someone to come to our home and willingly take them, you feel violated, and I feel hugely disappointed that one beekeeper is tarnishing what we hold dear.”