Hive Thefts Ahead of Almond Pollination

Hive thefts rise ahead of almond bloom


Thieves stole 144 bee hives in the Wasco area this weekend, two weeks before the bloom is expected to begin in most of the Central Valley.

  • Photo courtesy of Commercial Beekeepers

Bee rustlers are back — just in time for the almond bloom, naturally — and with them have come growing concerns that the annual uptick in stolen hives isn’t improving and may be getting worse.

One hundred forty-four hives were stolen in the Wasco area just this weekend, two full weeks before the bloom is expected to begin in most of the Central Valley. Thieves have since taken 384 more colonies in Mendocino County.

Bee theft happens to some degree every year lately, and it has prompted a new level of coordination among beekeepers. In some cases, they’re insisting almond growers take on some responsibility for protecting bee colonies placed in their orchards.

“It is such a shame that we have to deal with this when facing so many other obstacles in the ag industry,” Associate Director Brooke Palmer of the California State Beekeepers Association said by email Wednesday.

She noted colonies of bees, or hives, are renting for about $190 to $215 each this year ahead of the Central Valley almond pollination expected to start around Feb. 12 and run through the first week in March.

Colonies rented for no more than $40 apiece 20 years ago. Their run-up in prices speaks to factors including drought, colony die-offs and higher bee-feeding costs, not to mention the trend of more almond trees being planted that need pollination.

Beekeeper Ryan Maxwell with T&D Honey, the South Dakota company whose hives were stolen over the weekend near Wasco, said Wednesday the detectives he spoke with about the crime indicated the problem of hive theft is becoming more problematic. But he was optimistic people at the Kern County Sheriff’s Office were on the case.

“They’re doing more than just paperwork, and I appreciate that,” Maxwell said, adding that the 144 hives stolen represent 12 percent of the company’s business.

KCSO Public Information Officer Danielle Kernkamp confirmed the agency is investigating Maxwell’s case. She expressed concern about the rate of thefts reported so far this year.

“It has been a big problem for us already this year around the county,” she said. “If anyone has info on this, please give KCSO a call.”

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