Beekeepers Turn to Anti-Theft Technology

Beekeepers turn to anti-theft technology as hive thefts rise

Daisy Nguyen, Associated Press

Beekeeper Helio Medina displays a beehive frame outfitted with a GPS locater that will be installed in one of the beehives he rents. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

For a few frenzied weeks, beekeepers from around the United States truck billions of honeybees to California to rent them to almond growers who need the insects to pollinate the state’s most valuable crop.

But as almond trees start to bloom, blanketing entire valleys in white and pink flowers, so begin beehive thefts that have become so prevalent that beekeepers are now turning to GPS tracking devices, surveillance cameras and other anti-theft technology to protect their precious colonies.

Hive thefts have been reported elsewhere in the country, most recently three hives containing about 60,000 bees taken from a grocery chain’s garden. They happen at a larger scale this time of year because bees are most in demand during the largest pollination event in the world.

In the past few weeks, 1,036 beehives worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were reported stolen from orchards statewide, authorities said. The largest heist involved 384 beehives that were taken from a field, prompting a beekeepers association to offer a $10,000 reward for information leading to their recovery.

“It’s hard to articulate how it feels to care for your hives all year only to have them stolen from you,” Claire Tauzer wrote on Facebook to spread the word about the reward. A day later, an anonymous tipster led authorities to recover most of the boxes and a forklift stolen from Tauzer’s family business some 55 miles away.

Investigators also found frames, the kinds used to hold the honeycomb, belonging to Helio Medina, another beekeeper who lost 282 hives a year ago.

Medina said the theft devastated his apiary, so this year he placed GPS trackers inside the boxes. He also strapped cable locks around them and installed cameras nearby. As the almond bloom approached and the hives became most valuable, he drove around patrolling the orchards in the dark.

“We have do what we can to protect ourselves. Nobody can help us,” Medina said.

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Beekeepers turn to anti-theft technology as hive thefts rise (