Commercial Beekeeping and the Rise of Bee Thieves

Every spring, bees all over the country make a long, artificial migration to California by truck. Renting out bees to pollinate almond trees has become a big business with the explosive growth in California's almond industry. Where there is money, of course, there are thieves.

It's a tough time for beekeeping, but it's also a profitable time for beekeepers. Colony collapse disorder, which I'm sure you've heard of, has been killing off bees for years. But never have pollinating bees been more in demand. As almond trees have proliferated through California—the state now grows 80 percent of the world's almonds—the bee industry has grown up to support it. A single hive is worth about $200 in almond pollination season.

Beehives may not strike you as the most convenient thing to steal, but there's rarely much security out in the field. Put on a veil and gloves, pack a dozen hives into a truck, and there's an easy $2000 in 10 minutes. In a long, snowfall-esque piece from The Weather Channel, Lorraine Boissoneault investigates the rise in bee rustling.

Cops, on the other hand, have been flummoxed with how to deal with bee thefts. "I'm a cop, I'm not going to go into a beehive area and start tearing up the boxes," a detective in California told Boissoneault. "And if we recover 350 hives, what is law enforcement going to do with those things? We recover a car, we take it to the tow yard. If we recover cash or jewelry, we have a way to deal with those. How do you seize bees?"

Bee theft may sound like a twee joke at first, but it's part of something much larger—our national apian infrastructure, if you will. Millions of bees are shipped all around the country to guarantee that we have food to eat. If anything, it's so important and lucrative, it's attracted thieves. [Weather.com]

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