“When California was wild, it was one sweet bee garden throughout its entire length,
north and south, and all the way across from the snowy Sierra to the ocean.”
~John Muir, “The Bee Pastures”

Welcome to the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association, founded in 1873, to foster the interest of bee culture and beekeeping within Los Angeles County. Our primary purpose is the care and welfare of the honeybee. Our group membership is composed of commercial and small scale beekeepers, bee hobbyists, and bee enthusiasts. So whether you came upon our site by design or just 'happened' to find us - we're glad you're here!  Our club and this website are dedicated to educating our members and the general public.  We support honeybee research, and adhering to best management practices for the keeping of bees.

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Beekeepers Hit Hard by Thefts of Hives

National Geographic By Rene Ebersole, Photographs by Lucal Foglia May 3, 2019

In sophisticated night heists, thieves are stealing thousands of bees. Why?

Eighty percent of the world’s almonds are grown in California’s Central Valley. Honeybees trucked in by the billions to pollinate the trees are as essential as rain and sunshine. Without them, only a fraction of the acreage under self-pollinating almond varieties would produce nuts. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Eighty percent of the world’s almonds are grown in California’s Central Valley. Honeybees trucked in by the billions to pollinate the trees are as essential as rain and sunshine. Without them, only a fraction of the acreage under self-pollinating almond varieties would produce nuts. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

CENTRAL VALLEY, CALIF.It was Wednesday night around dinnertime when Jeremy Kuhnhenn realized something was wrong. A few days earlier, in preparation for pollination season, he’d temporarily parked a truckload of more than 280 wooden boxes vibrating with buzzing bees on a grassy knoll overlooking a vista of citrus trees in McFarland, in California’s Central Valley. Now, standing on the hill, he felt ill, as if he might throw up—many of the boxes were missing.

Feverishly, he started counting. “I couldn’t think. I kept messing up the count,” he told me, sitting at a friend’s kitchen table the next morning, shaking his head. He’d hardly slept. “Over half of them were gone, 160 boxes”—days before California’s almond bloom, the biggest and most lucrative pollination event in the world. “Those thieves stole about $70,000 from me,” he said, tallying the insects, equipment, and lost pollination rental fees.

Each year between February and March, more than a million acres of almond orchards in the Central Valley burst into bloom, painting the region pastel pink and white. The area’s mild climate is ideal for cultivating almonds, as well as many other crops. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Each year between February and March, more than a million acres of almond orchards in the Central Valley burst into bloom, painting the region pastel pink and white. The area’s mild climate is ideal for cultivating almonds, as well as many other crops. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Kuhnhenn, 39—tattooed, with a brown beard, and wearing a black “Right To Bear Arms” T-shirt and jeans—is a commercial beekeeper from Bantry, North Dakota. Like many others in his profession, he makes the bulk of his living from an annual pilgrimage to the Central Valley, where his bees help pollinate the state’s almond crop. In the off-season, back home on his ranch, Bulldog Honey Farms, he manufactures about 80 pounds of summer honey. Wintertime is almond season, and he’d been preparing for the bloom all year. His hives were ready to move into position in the almond orchards. Now was that time, and a bunch of his bees were gone.

Kuhnhenn was distraught. How would he make up for the loss and pay the bills? “I’ve got some cows,” he said, rubbing his bloodshot eyes. “My wife is saying she’s gonna put up her Mustang GT.”

Left:  Officer Rowdy Jay Freeman, a member of California's Rural Crime Prevention Task Force, is also an apiarist, an activity he first learned about while working on a bee theft case. With his special expertise, he serves as a liaison between commercial beekeepers and regional law enforcement. Tips and reports from the beekeepers, a tightly knit group, often help solve cases.  Right:  Bee thieves are often beekeepers with experience handling stinging insects. Tire tracks are important evidence helping detectives determine if the vehicle used in a theft was typical of what a commercial beekeeper would own—such as a truck, trailer, or forklift. Car tracks would suggest less sophisticated criminals. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Left: Officer Rowdy Jay Freeman, a member of California's Rural Crime Prevention Task Force, is also an apiarist, an activity he first learned about while working on a bee theft case. With his special expertise, he serves as a liaison between commercial beekeepers and regional law enforcement. Tips and reports from the beekeepers, a tightly knit group, often help solve cases. Right: Bee thieves are often beekeepers with experience handling stinging insects. Tire tracks are important evidence helping detectives determine if the vehicle used in a theft was typical of what a commercial beekeeper would own—such as a truck, trailer, or forklift. Car tracks would suggest less sophisticated criminals. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Rowdy Jay Freeman and his colleagues on the state’s Rural Crime Prevention Task Force respond to reports of bee thefts and many other agriculture-related crimes, including stolen farm equipment, fuel, metal, cargo, pesticides, and more. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Rowdy Jay Freeman and his colleagues on the state’s Rural Crime Prevention Task Force respond to reports of bee thefts and many other agriculture-related crimes, including stolen farm equipment, fuel, metal, cargo, pesticides, and more. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

He wanted to show me the crime scene. He climbed into his truck, and I followed in my rental car. We traced a long series of dirt roads, deeply rutted from heavy rain and truck traffic. Finally arriving at the hill, we walked across the grass to where his bees had been.

“They were right here,” he said, pointing at the ground. “You can see the pallet marks in the grass, and here in the dirt are tread marks from the forklift. It had smaller tires than mine.”

Whoever did this knew what he was doing, Kuhnhenn said, and had the right equipment.

Cattle raiding and horse thieving were common crimes in the Wild West, but bee rustling is a relatively new offense for the lawbooks. That’s thanks in large part to the increasing necessity and profitability of trucking billions of bees to vast commercial orchards in dire need of pollination, as well as a thriving international market for gourmet honey.

“It’s the perfect crime,” said Butte County police detective Rowdy Jay Freeman, a member of the state’s Rural Crime Prevention Task Force and a commercial apiarist himself. “You see a person in a white suit, and it looks like a beekeeper, but it could be a thief too—you’d never know.”

Throughout the almond bloom, beekeepers monitor their bee colonies’ health, looking out for mites, fungi, and disease that can wipe out a hive. In cold weather, beekeepers supplement the hives with syrup and pollen to keep the bees alive till the weather warms. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Throughout the almond bloom, beekeepers monitor their bee colonies’ health, looking out for mites, fungi, and disease that can wipe out a hive. In cold weather, beekeepers supplement the hives with syrup and pollen to keep the bees alive till the weather warms. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Big bee heists are making global headlines. In April 2016, a few weeks shy of blueberry pollination season, thieves struck one of the largest family apiaries in the Canadian province of Québec. The beekeeper, Jean Marc Labonte, told reporters the crooks made off with 180 hives worth an estimated $200,000. Of two likely suspects snagged by police, one was sentenced to nine months’ probation, including five months’ house arrest, and a $40,000 fine; the other was acquitted, according to reports by the Canadian Broadcasting Companyand other outlets.

A few months later, in June, bandits absconded with some of the most valuable bees in Canada, belonging to a $7.1 million research project at the University of Laval aimed at breeding stronger honeybees resistant to some of the ailments, from mites to fungi, currently plaguing colonies around the globe.

Four out of the 30 stolen beehives were part of the Laval study. Hundreds of hours of research had been devoted to selectively breeding those particular colonies, University of Laval bee biologist Pierre Giovenazzo explained. “It’s difficult to put a price on it, but those hives were worth a lot,” he said.

Bees are not only a hot commodity for their pollination services—there’s big money in their honey too. One of Britain’s largest bee heists happened in February 2018 when 40 hives, containing millions of bees, were stolen from a family-run company, Beekeeper Honey, in Oxfordshire. The crime came on the heels of a Telegraph report about a spike in bee thefts in England and Wales.

Diane Roberts, a press officer with the British Beekeepers Association, stressed that bee thefts are not rampant but that a few happen every year. “The value of bees has gone up enormously,” she said, adding that some heists might be related to the type of bee stock—“like racehorses, the best bees are highly prized.”

New Zealand has become a major target for people hoping to cash in on the craze for manuka honey, a trendy sweetener valued for purported health benefits in the treatment of everything from colds to skin infections. Amber-colored manuka is produced by bees pollinating the flowers of the indigenous manuka shrub. An eight-ounce jar of manuka, dubbed “liquid gold,” sells for as much as $60 online. The global manuka market is exploding. Now valued at $940 million, it’s expected to reach $2.16 billion by 2025.

Thieves want both the raw honey and the hives, said New Zealand senior police sergeant Alasdair MacMillan. By his count, there have been more than 2,000 heists in New Zealand since 2016, with some possibly linked to organized crime. “The type and quantities being stolen indicate that a number of persons would need to be involved,” he said. “It takes lifting equipment, vehicles, beekeeping, an outlet for extraction—and of course a market.” Given the volume of manuka being stolen and high prices for the product in China and elsewhere, MacMillan said, it’s likely destined for the black market.

Perils of beekeeping

The domesticated western honeybee (Apis mellifera) is the superstar of the bee world. Out of roughly 20,000 bee species on Earth, more than 4,000 in the United States alone, this one little European species commands the spotlight. It is indeed an extraordinary creature. No other bee takes division of labor to such an extreme, with colonies comprising one queen and tens of thousands of workers thrumming along in perfect synchrony—a superorganism. En masse, they move by swarm. Individually, they navigate in fanciful figure eights. Their hives are like little factories, not only filling our cupboards with honey but also producing wax for candles and soap. What’s more, they pollinate a third of the produce on our plates—everything from apples, oranges, and blueberries to tomatoes, watermelons, and zucchini.

Steve Godlin is one of the commercial beekeepers in the Central Valley who had nearly a hundred of his own hives and as many more that he was brokering stolen this year. Factoring the value of the equipment, bees, and lost pollination fees, a stolen hive is worth about $350. Oftentimes, thieves steal hundreds in one swoop, wiping out much of a beekeeper’s annual income. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Steve Godlin is one of the commercial beekeepers in the Central Valley who had nearly a hundred of his own hives and as many more that he was brokering stolen this year. Factoring the value of the equipment, bees, and lost pollination fees, a stolen hive is worth about $350. Oftentimes, thieves steal hundreds in one swoop, wiping out much of a beekeeper’s annual income. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

California almond season is the pollination Grand Prix. In roughly four weeks between February and March, when almond buds burst into pink and white petals, billions of honeybees buzz through the orchards collecting pollen and nectar for their hives and simultaneously pollinating about one million acres of almonds.

In the days leading up to the bloom, an estimated 85 percent of all the honeybees in the country are trucked into the valley. Budget hotels, Denny’s, and IHOPs overflow with rugged out-of-towners, sweaty and dirty from working with bees 24/7. A commercial apiarist makes a modest (and sticky) living traveling the country pollinating dozens of different crops, but it’s the almonds that pay mortgages and kids’ college loans.

Lately beekeepers are having a tough time supplying the high demand for their bees. With almonds priced at about $2.80 a pound, farmers are ripping out their raisin grapes and row crops and replacing them with almond trees. During the past 10 years, lands under almonds in California have grown from 825,000 to 1.33 million acres—a 61 percent rise, according to the state almond board.

In addition to trying to keep pace with the increasing almond acreage, beekeepers are struggling to prevent their colonies from succumbing to a multitude of maladies—mites, viruses, bacteria, fungi, pesticides—often simultaneously. Many apiarists say it’s never been so hard or expensive to raise and maintain healthy honeybee colonies. This year has been particularly arduous, with some beekeepers reporting as much as 85 percent losses.

Almond grower Daljit Rakkar (right) is helping run the Central Valley business established by his father, Gurcharan (left), who got his start in almonds as a farm laborer. Half the Rakkars’ 2,000 acres are planted with almonds, and the rest with a mix of pistachios and raisins. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Almond grower Daljit Rakkar (right) is helping run the Central Valley business established by his father, Gurcharan (left), who got his start in almonds as a farm laborer. Half the Rakkars’ 2,000 acres are planted with almonds, and the rest with a mix of pistachios and raisins. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Jeremy Kuhnhenn said about 75 percent of his bees died during the seven months between last year’s almond bloom and the end of honey season in early October. “I don’t know what caused it,” he said, looking out over the miles of farmland sloping from the hillside where his hives were stolen. “It could be a combination of a lot of stuff. I’m waiting on test results from some scientists. I had to buy bees to come out here with 1,500 hives for the almonds. Some of those hives died—I only had 830 left. Now I’m down 160 more.”

With such demand for honeybees, pollination fees have soared. Daljit Rakkar is a second-generation almond grower in Madera, California, whose father built an empire after starting out as a young laborer in the orchards. One afternoon at his family mansion, where two Mercedes-Benzes and a Maserati were parked in the driveway, Rakkar said his company has witnessed the dramatic increase in the cost of bee rentals. “When we first got started, the rental fee was five dollars a hive,” he said. “Now it’s $180 to $200. The standard is two hives per acre. We’ll spend $500,000 on bees this year.”

The opportunity for such high profits is unquestionably motive for theft. But here’s the thing: Not just anyone can make off with millions of stinging insects. More often than not, said detective Freeman, bee burglars are beekeepers. Some steal for a quick payday; others pinch some hives when they come up short trying to fulfill their contracts.

“The vast majority of beekeepers are good, hardworking people,” Freeman said. “But a small percentage of them are on the side of crime. They don’t have boundaries, and they’re looking to make a quick buck. Since the pollination prices have spiked, there have been hundreds of thousands of hives stolen in California.”

Beehive chop shops

Joe Romance, a beekeeper from North Dakota who splits the year between his home state, California, and Maine for the spring blueberry bloom, was furious when he heard that Kuhnhenn, “a young guy coming up in the business” had been robbed. Romance has been a victim too.

“When you go in the yard and see your bees are gone, you go crazy,” he said. “I think that’s the only time in my life when I could kill somebody—if I had a gun (which I don’t). It’s the worst feeling, because you’ve lost your crop, your farm, your everything—years of work, gone.”

In 2014, Romance got a call from one of his employees who’d discovered that more than a hundred hives were missing from the inventory. Romance drove up and down Kern County looking for the missing boxes, hoping the thief had been reckless enough to place them near a road. He didn’t find them. One day, he heard from a friend who said he’d met a guy offering some bees for rent and thought he’d seen some of Romance’s equipment at his place.

Accused of stealing hundreds of beehives throughout the Central Valley over several years, Pavel Tveretinov and an alleged accomplice, Vitaliy Yeroshenko, were arrested in 2017. Their preliminary trials are scheduled for this summer. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Accused of stealing hundreds of beehives throughout the Central Valley over several years, Pavel Tveretinov and an alleged accomplice, Vitaliy Yeroshenko, were arrested in 2017. Their preliminary trials are scheduled for this summer. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

“It was a lucky break,” Romance said. He decided to go incognito to check things out. “I go over to the house with another friend who’s like six four, and we pretend we’re almond farmers,” he recounted. He was met by two men. “I said, ‘I’m paying $225 a hive’—top dollar. The price at the time was about $180. These guys were falling all over themselves saying they’d love to sell us some bees.”

While they talked, Romance looked around and realized what was going on. “It was a chop shop. They were grinding the brands off the boxes and painting over them,” he said. “That’s like branding over cattle—you can’t do that. Used to be a hanging offense! They were systematically stealing bees, painting the boxes, and reselling them.”

Romance called the sheriff. Later that evening the sheriff arrested one of the men, Gabino Jordan Peña, who worked for a nearby beekeeper named William Green. When Green got word that Peña had been pegged for stealing bees, he couldn’t believe it. He’d always considered Peña to be a good employee—he didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, went to church at least once a week. But Green soon came to the conclusion that Peña was likely swindling him too, even using his equipment and credit card to fund his operation.

Peña declared his innocence, said detective Richard Hudson, of the Kern County rural crime prevention task force, and his church raised money to bail him out of jail. A few days before he was scheduled to appear in court, Peña skipped town, possibly to Mexico, Hudson said.

It’s not uncommon for an employee to steal bees from the boss—bee crooks need to get training somewhere, Romance explained. “You don’t go to school or read a book to become a beekeeper. It’s a dirty, hot, stinging job. You have to have the chutzpah to do it.”

Ultimately, Romance said, the stolen bees were recovered and redistributed among Green, other victims, and himself.

Feeling the sting

Investigating bee crimes isn’t easy. “These cases are hard to crack because bees don’t have VIN numbers like cars, and we can’t track them by their DNA,” said detective Isaac Torres, a Fresno-based member of California’s rural crime prevention task force. Often the only witnesses at the crime scene would be an angry mob with stingers. Once while responding to a call, Torres’s partner, Andres Solis, got stung eight times in the head, and his face “swelled up like a balloon,” Torres said. Now Solis wears a beekeeper’s veil when investigating bee cases.

In 2017, Solis and Torres managed to crack one of the biggest hive heists in California history. For three years in a row, an unusually high number of bee crimes were reported throughout the Central Valley—200, 300, 400 hives at a time in many different locations. “We knew it had to be someone in the business,” Solis said. “They weren’t just any crooks. They really knew what they were doing.”

Buzz’s Bees, owned by California apiarist Buzz Landon, had eight hives stolen early in the 2019 season. The California Rural Crime Prevention Task Force recommends that beekeepers brand their boxes with their name and state-issued registration number, keep them where thieves have less access, and use technologies such as GPS trackers to help find stolen hives. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Buzz’s Bees, owned by California apiarist Buzz Landon, had eight hives stolen early in the 2019 season. The California Rural Crime Prevention Task Force recommends that beekeepers brand their boxes with their name and state-issued registration number, keep them where thieves have less access, and use technologies such as GPS trackers to help find stolen hives. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

A few weeks after the almond bloom, the detectives investigated a report about a suspicious discovery: a vacant lot on the outskirts of Fresno with bee boxes in varied shapes, colors, and designs stacked and scattered about. At the scene, they found what appeared to be a chop shop, where boxes were being sanded, repainted, and stenciled with the name Allstate Apiaries Inc., a business operated by Pavel Tveretinov, who was on-site tending to the bees.

Officers arrested Tveretinov, a 51-year-old Ukrainian immigrant, and later an alleged accomplice, Vitaliy Yeroshenko, 48. As the investigation progressed, the detectives uncovered similar operations at two other locations. They say they recovered some 2,500 hives worth $875,000.

Word about the arrests spread quickly. Soon beekeepers from all over the country were calling to find out if their missing equipment was among the recovered stacks.

“It was like a spiderweb,” Torres said. “One person would go and ID their bees, then goes home and tells their friends they saw some equipment of theirs. Then they come and see someone else’s, and it kept going like that.”

Kamron Koehne, a beekeeper in Butte County, California, recovered some of his 240 hives, all of which were uniquely branded with the numbers 42-14. “Every frame, every bottom, every lid, every pallet, everything was branded,” he said. “We’ve never sold a thing. If someone else has it, they either picked it up off the road or stole it.” Recently, Koehne was informed by the investigators that some of his equipment was found in North Dakota, where Tveretinov was allegedly making honey in the off-season.

Almond farmers generally rent two hives per acre to ensure adequate pollination. Fees range from $180 to $220. When the almond bloom ends, beekeepers truck their bees to other locations across the U.S. to pollinate more than 90 crops, from apples and avocados to blueberries and cherries. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Almond farmers generally rent two hives per acre to ensure adequate pollination. Fees range from $180 to $220. When the almond bloom ends, beekeepers truck their bees to other locations across the U.S. to pollinate more than 90 crops, from apples and avocados to blueberries and cherries. PHOTOGRAPH BY LUCAS FOGLIA, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Fresno County Deputy District Attorney Ryan McGinthy confirmed that Tveretinov and Yeroshenko are still under investigation and that more charges could be forthcoming. Tveretinov now faces 12 felony counts, including receiving stolen property and grand theft. Yeroshenko is charged with 10 counts of receiving stolen property. Court records show their preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for June 25. If found guilty, they could face prison time and thousands of dollars in fines. Both men maintain their innocence.

The California State Beekeepers Association offers a $10,000 reward for information resulting in the arrest and conviction of a bee rustler. Torres said apiarists should report thefts to authorities immediately and be vigilant to protect themselves against crime. That includes registering their hives with the state and minimizing opportunities for thieves to snatch equipment by placing hives away from access roads, behind locked gates when possible. Unique hive designs are easier to identify and recover after a theft. Some beekeepers are meticulous about branding every moving part in the hive. A growing number are taking advantage of technologies such as GPS trackers and camera systems that can send text alerts when hives are moved. “If this is your bread and butter, you’ve got to protect yourself,” Torres said. “I tell everyone to put GPS trackers on their hives.”

That’s just what Jeremy Kuhnhenn would like to do. But the units are pricey, as much as $130 apiece, he said, and right now money is especially tight. Back at Bulldog Honey Farms in North Dakota in March, all his cows were still in the barn, but there was extra space in the driveway. The loss of his hives meant he had to sell a 24-foot trailer and his wife’s 2010 Mustang to pay the bills. He also got a loan from the bank to keep things going while building back his bee colonies and preparing to make summer honey.

Next February, as the winter stillness settles over North Dakota, he’ll load his bees on a truck and again make the 1,800-mile trip southwest to California, where money grows on almond trees.

Wildlife Watch is an investigative reporting project between National Geographic Society and National Geographic Partners focusing on wildlife crime and exploitation. Read more Wildlife Watch stories here, and learn more about National Geographic Society’s nonprofit mission at nationalgeographic.org. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@natgeo.com.

Lucas Foglia's photographs have been widely exhibited and published in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Nazraeli Press recently released his third book,Human Nature . Follow him on Instagram.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/05/bee-thieves-cost-beekeepers-thousands/?fbclid=IwAR0nWJrPgam84cT3vd5GAZbA06vhwspRSDztBtVFxPBjugu9vBeLqpXK_XM

Thefts Continue to Trouble Beekeepers

AgAlert By Christine Souza February 20, 2019

Butte County Sheriff’s Deputy Rowdy Freeman checks on commercial apiaries in an almond orchard near Oroville. Freeman says law-enforcement agencies around the state have received reports of bee-colony thefts, suggesting potentially tight supplies of bees for pollination.  Photo/Christine Souza

Butte County Sheriff’s Deputy Rowdy Freeman checks on commercial apiaries in an almond orchard near Oroville. Freeman says law-enforcement agencies around the state have received reports of bee-colony thefts, suggesting potentially tight supplies of bees for pollination.
Photo/Christine Souza

For some commercial beekeepers, California's almond bloom ended before it officially started.

Early last week, Tulare County beekeeper Steve Godlin of Visalia learned that about 100 honeybee colonies he was managing had disappeared from an almond orchard west of Visalia.

"We got hit. It's a nightmare," said Godlin, who had been managing the colonies for a fellow beekeeper from North Dakota. "It's very discouraging, obviously, to get the bees this far to a payday and then have them stolen."

Citing a shortage of bees for almond pollination, which this year requires about 2.14 million apiaries for more than 1 million bearing acres of almonds, Godlin said the bees were likely stolen Feb. 10.

Deputies from the Tulare County Sheriff's Department Agricultural Crimes Unit also took a report of a likely related theft the next day: Just a few miles from the Godlin location, Gunter Honey reported a second theft of another 96 hives.

Godlin said 100 beehives would be valued at $20,000 for the bees alone and another $20,000 for the pollination services—and that to steal that many hives would require a one-ton truck and forklift. His advice to farmers?

"Know your beekeepers, and if you or anybody in the public sees somebody loading bees up in an almond orchard, call the police. That's not the way it works. Bees should be going into the almonds, not out," Godlin said.

Butte County Sheriff's Deputy Rowdy Freeman, who investigates rural and agricultural crimes, said a theft of 100 or 200 hives at a time would likely be committed by someone who is a beekeeper.

"They know what they are doing. They have beekeeping equipment. They know how to go in and take them and have the means to do it. It could be a beekeeper who lost a lot of hives and can't fulfill his contract. Desperation leads to theft, so they will steal the hives from someone," Freeman said, noting that other bee thefts had been reported already this year in Kern County and in Southern California, with a total of 300 hives lost.

"What we typically see is they steal hives from one area and then drive several hours to put them on a contract, because the people there won't necessarily know that they are stolen," Freeman said. "Almond growers need to know whose bees are going into their orchards, what markings are going to be on those hives, and if they see anything different, they need to report it."

Early this month, Freeman investigated reports of a small number of bees stolen from Butte and Glenn counties. He later recovered about half of the bees, after deputies spotted some of the stolen hives loaded onto a small utility trailer parked in a driveway in Biggs.

Two adults were arrested for the alleged crime and for felony possession of stolen property. The recovered bees were returned to the beekeeper-owner in Glenn County.

The sheriff's department said the suspects planned to place the hives in an almond orchard in exchange for payment for pollination services.

Freeman said smaller apiary thefts could be carried out by people who aren't beekeepers, but are just looking to make quick cash.

"In a recent case I worked, they saw an ad on Craigslist, and they responded to that and came to an agreement," he said. "The farmer doesn't know who they are really dealing with, and that guy comes out and drops off a bunch of boxes that look like beehives and the farmer is happy he has bees. But he doesn't look inside of them. One case, there weren't any bees in the boxes, and they weren't beekeepers."

Freeman, who also became interested in beekeeping after investigating a theft in 2013 and now maintains about 50 hives of his own, said the thefts this season are likely related to a limited supply of bees.

Whether or not almond growers will have enough bees remains to be seen.

Mel Machado, director of member relations for the Blue Diamond Growers cooperative, said he hadn't heard "any issues related to a shortage of bees."

Almond grower Dave Phippen of Travaille and Phippen Inc. in Manteca said one of the beekeepers he works with was unable to bring the truckload of bees that he had agreed upon, but was able to deliver 400 bee colonies for Phippen's almonds.

"I got what I needed, but just by the skin of my chinny-chin-chin," Phippen said, adding, "It's a challenge every year."

Phippen said he expects the cost of pollination services this year will be approximately $190 per colony.

"The trees are excited and trying to open," he said. "The weather's been cool, so it held them back, but with this warm storm, I'm afraid they are going to progress quicker than they have been."

Machado said it would take a while to gauge the impact of last week's rains on the almond bloom.

"We just don't know yet," he said.

Freeman offered suggestions for preventing bee theft:

Beekeepers should place bees out of sight and off the road, and mark hives, lids and frames with identifying information so that recovered bees can be traced back to the owner.

Growers paying for pollination services should verify that colonies in the orchard or field match with the contract they have with the beekeeper.

Though it is not cost-effective for every hive, beekeepers should strategically place GPS trackers in certain hives.

Beekeepers and farmers should maintain a close working relationship.

The California State Beekeepers Association offers up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for stealing bees and/or beekeeping equipment; information may be sent to calstatebeekeepers@agamsi.com.

The Tulare County Sheriff's Department asked anyone with information regarding the stolen apiaries there to contact its Agricultural Crimes Unit: 559-802-9401.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=12734

HIVE THEFT ALERT!!!

California State Beekeepers Association January 28, 2019

HIVE THEFT ALERT!!!

8 beehives were stolen from an apiary yard belonging to Harold Landon owner of Buzz’s Bees in the Richvale area off of Richvale Highway and Aguas Frias Rd between 01/21/2019 and 01/28/2019. The suspect(s) stole the hives and left the pallets and feeder cans behind. It is believed the suspect(s) either carried the hives out by hand or used a flatbed with a boom on it to load the hives.

On the evening of 01/28/2019, the owner of the hives was at the apiary yard getting ready to load bees for almond pollination. An older model late 1980’s Chevrolet or similar, 14-foot flatbed truck with a boom on it drove up to the yard after dark at approximately 6:00 PM. When the driver of the vehicle saw there were people in the yard they drove off and out of the area and never returned. It is believed based off of the evidence and circumstances that this vehicle may have been involved in the prior theft and was returning to steal more beehives. It is also believed that this vehicle will continue to search for hives to steal as almond pollination is upon us in California.

The pictures attached show the pallets the hives were on, as well as what the hives look like and the brand associated with them. The hives are 10 frame hives, consisting of 3 shallow boxes, painted white, with “H.N. Landon” branded on them. The photographs of the flatbed and boom provided is NOT the actual flatbed and only provided to show what the suspicious flatbed looks like.

If you have any further information please contact Deputy Jay Freeman at the Butte County Sheriff’s Office at 530-538-7322 or by email at rfreeman@buttecounty.net or Buzz Landon at 530-624-3361.

bee theft 012918.jpg
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A TRUCK SIMILAR TO THIS TRUCK WAS USED.

A TRUCK SIMILAR TO THIS TRUCK WAS USED.

H.N. Landon BRAND

H.N. Landon BRAND

How to Steal 50 Million Bees

Bloomberg Businessweek     By Josh Dean     June 26, 2018

Every winter, apiarists from all over America rent their hives to farmers in California, attracting the attention of some very specialized thieves.

ILLUSTRATION: ALEXIS BEAUCLAIR FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

Lloyd Cunniff felt terrible, literally sick to his stomach, about trucking his bees to California, but fate had painted him into a corner. Bad weather, bad luck, scrawny, needy bees—a whole mess of headaches had upset the economics at Beeline Honey, his third-generation apiary in Montana. It was colony collapse in 2015 that had really tipped things sideways. The mysterious affliction, which causes worker bees to vacate a hive en masse, had destroyed half of the Beeline colonies. Cunniff and his wife, Brenda, were down to 489 hives, when he bit the bullet and did the thing he really didn’t want to do.

In January 2017, Cunniff piled 488 of his 489 bee boxes—24 to a pallet—onto a semitruck trailer, strapped them down, and headed west to chase the sweet, sweet almond dollars that were drawing so many of his beekeeping brethren to California’s Central Valley. Loaning his bees out for a season, 1,000 miles away, made him very uncomfortable. But if your business is bees, California is where the big money is. Or it is at least in February, when 1.2 million acres of almond trees don’t get pollinated without the help of honeybees, which love almond flowers. California produces 80 percent of the world’s almonds, and over the past 15 years the trees have come to dominate the valley, pushing out all kinds of row crops. There aren’t enough California bees to pollinate them, so every year the call goes out to keepers: Bring your boxes west. An acre of almond trees needs at least two hives, meaning that every February, 2.5 million colonies—two-thirds of the commercial honeybee colonies in the U.S.—are clustered in a few California counties. Beekeepers command as much as $200 per hive for the season, which runs a few weeks.

Cunniff has a long-standing relationship with Strachan Apiaries, a Yuba City-based business that’s one of the most famous names in American bees. Don Strachan, the founder, helped Cunniff’s grandfather get his apiary up and running. For years now, Valeri Strachan, Don’s granddaughter, has sent a few trucks of California bees to Montana to make clover honey in the summer, when there’s little for those bees to eat or do in the Central Valley. So when Cunniff decided to participate in the 2017 almond season, the Strachans were happy to help out an old friend. They arranged for farmers to hire his bees and offered to keep them for a few weeks until it was time to head south from Sutter County toward Fresno and the trees.

When Cunniff arrived in Yuba City, the Strachans directed him and his truck to a dike running along some sunflower fields southwest of town, between the Sacramento River and the Sutter National Wildlife Refuge, and that’s where he unloaded his bees on Jan. 17, arranging the boxes in tidy rows. Leaving them that evening, Cunniff felt better about things. The bees seemed happy; that’s what he told Brenda when he called her from his hotel.

The next morning he rose early and drove back to the site. The fog had rolled in overnight, and Lloyd couldn’t see 100 feet past his nose, so he wandered around to make certain he wasn’t fog-blind. Then he double-checked to be sure he was in the right place, because goddamn if something weird hadn’t happened: The hives were gone.

Almost 50 million bees, in 488 white boxes with cedar lids, every one of them hand-crafted by Cunniff, had vanished into the fog.

The first thing Philip Strachan, Valeri’s son, thought when Cunniff called him in a fugue state, muttering about stolen bees, was that this was the work of professionals. No normal criminal would think to steal bees or have the equipment or know-how to pull it off. Cunniff was thinking the same way, and the evidence was right there in the dirt. He could tell by the thieves’ tracks that they’d used single-axle, dual-wheeled straight trucks, and not semis, probably because they knew there wasn’t room to turn a semi around in a hurry. He also saw signs of a forklift, so they’d come prepared to lift pallets.

Hives go missing; that’s no surprise. But historically, Strachan says, it’s been “one here, two there.” Just some drunk opportunists in a pickup. But this was a methodical operation. Cunniff’s weren’t the only hives taken. In total, more than 700 of them, valued at as much as a million dollars, went missing in a single night. In addition to the heavy equipment, the burglars needed the gear required to subdue and corral the boxes—namely, full keeper suits and hand-held smokers. Whoever did this knew how to handle bees.

And this wasn’t the first time, either. What sounds to novice ears like the plot of Fargo Season 4—a crew of guys in white suits and beekeeper hoods boosting hives in the fog—is a small but growing niche of agricultural crime. Two years prior, someone stole a bunch of hives in a neighboring county, and the next year more were taken, Strachan says. Counting the loss of Cunniff’s bees in 2017, then, “it was three years in a row that we had large thefts in this area.”

“I wouldn’t steal my neighbor’s car and park it right next door”

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, hive heists are an epidemic. There the motive is manuka honey, a highly prized variety that goes for $150 a kilogram (or 2.2 pounds), and authorities suspect an organized crime syndicate may be to blame. “It doesn’t matter if it’s beekeeping or meth; this is just the new gold rush,” one apiary manager told Reuters.

The culprits in California were almost certainly not local. Beekeepers are a close-knit community. They share wisdom and are aware of one another’s operations and equipment, particularly within a given area. Anyone new showing up with a bunch of hives for hire is going to stand out. “I wouldn’t steal my neighbor’s car and park it right next door,” Strachan says. “And it was pretty obvious that if you were going to take them from this area, they’re probably going to take them straight down to the almonds.”

Cunniff grew up around bees and hears their buzz in his sleep. His grandfather tended hives on the high plains of Montana, so did his father, and so did he, as soon as he was old enough to participate, at age 13. The morning of the theft, Cunniff drove around in a daze, his hope dwindling. He stopped every time he saw a beekeeper tending to boxes, but their reactions sunk his spirits further. The bees, folks said, were almost certainly gone forever. Stolen bees just aren’t found. “One kid said that he’d lost 300 colonies the year before and never saw anything of them,” Cunniff recalls.

He’d hated the idea of moving his bees in the first place, but this was far worse than anything he imagined. He’d lost so much more than the $100,000 in pollination fees. His entire livelihood was gone. One day, he had almost 500 hives. The next, he had one. “I was 57 years old, and I had to start over from scratch,” he says. “Where I had been thinking about retiring, now I got to … there’s no way I can retire now.”

Valeri Strachan, a former president of the California State Beekeepers Association, mobilized that organization. The CSBA has a fund for rewards, and it put up $10,000 for information that could lead to an arrest and conviction for the hive thefts. More important, law enforcement took notice. Agriculture crime detectives in Madera, Sutter, and Fresno counties were all put on the case, and the FBI even offered assistance.

Around the state, bee people were on the lookout for boxes that fit the description of those stolen from Cunniff and several others, but with 2.5 million hives in a concentrated area, the task was daunting. California law requires commercial keepers to brand their boxes by burning or cutting a state-assigned number into the wood. But the law isn’t strictly followed. Some beekeepers can’t be bothered, whereas others, such as Cunniff, are from out of state.

Market forces wouldn’t help, either. Demand in almond season is often desperate, something thieves can exploit. “You’re going to come across somebody who may not have bees on his almonds yet, and you’re like, ‘Do you want bees?’ And that guy is not going to ask questions,” Philip Strachan says, “because without those bees, he’s not going to have a crop.”

ILLUSTRATION: ALEXIS BEAUCLAIR FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEKCunniff’s main business is honey. That’s how it used to be for most apiaries, especially those on the high plains of the western U.S., where the air is clear, the water is clean, and the forage, as keepers call the many plants bees plunder for pollen and nectar, is plentiful. Bees in Montana and the Dakotas produce more honey per hive than any other bees in America, and that’s been good enough to keep three generations of Cunniffs housed and fed, with money left over to vacation in Hawaii and send the kids to good colleges.

But the business isn’t what it used to be, for them or anyone else who raises bees commercially. Today’s commercial beekeeper can never relax. He can expect to lose 30 percent of his bee stock every year, from bad flower years, pesticides, disease, and bears, which really do love honey, just like the cartoons say. Climate change is a problem, especially as it pertains to drought, because bees need lots of water. They both drink it and collect it to take back to the hives for the queen and her nurses, which is why you always find bees floating in pools and buzzing around leaky sinks.

“We spend so much money to keep them alive,” Cunniff says. “We feed them pollen substitutes that we never, ever dreamed of.” Those are $2.50 a pop for each hive. “They used to make enough honey to make it through the winter. Now they won’t make it. You got to feed them corn syrup at 40¢ a gallon.” Twice a year, he treats for varroa mites, a scourge his father never had to deal with. The treatment used to cost $1 a hive. It’s now $4.

“It’s probably twice the labor it used to be to maintain the beehives,” says Valeri Strachan, who took over the Strachan Apiaries business when her father passed away and will soon hand it over to Philip. Honey is third on the list of revenue streams for the Strachans. Above that is queen bee breeding. If an apiary in America is using Carniolan queens, they’ve almost certainly been bred by the Strachans, who’ve perfected the art. Valeri’s specialty, and it’s a rare one, is instrumental insemination. She’s one of a handful of Americans who can extract semen from drone bees and use it to inseminate virgin queens, a delicate skill requiring a steady hand, tiny tools, and a microscope. The Strachans produce close to 50,000 queen bees a year. “We use some, some die, and then the rest are shipped,” Philip says. A healthy Carniolan queen costs $31 (or $28 if you buy bulk); she’ll be sent overnight by UPS in a tiny box with screened sides along with six bodyguard bees that tend to her needs in transit.

At the top of the pyramid for the Strachans is pollination. The company maintains an average of 10,000 hives in a given year, an exponential leap from the 600 Valeri’s father started with and the most it has the space for. Bees move from almonds to prunes to any one of many other crops: apples, cherries, melons, sunflowers. This summer there are eight Strachan hives in a cilantro field; others will soon be sent to farmers of alfalfa seed.

Back in 2013, a Whole Foods in Rhode Island wanted people to recognize how important bees are to their daily diet. For a few days, the market removed all produce that grew on plants that depend on pollinators. More than half of the section was empty: 237 of 453 products in the section, or 52 percent of the store’s produce, were gone.

In late May 2017, four months after Cunniff’s hives vanished in the fog, someone who knew enough about bees to recognize an odd sight called the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office to report something suspicious: A vacant lot at the intersection of two roads about 20 minutes east of downtown Fresno was filled with bee boxes—many more than any reputable beekeeper would store at a single location. And it wasn’t just too many boxes. These were scattered all over the one-acre lot, stacked haphazardly, and in various shapes, sizes, and colors.

When a Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy arrived at midday to inspect the site, bees impeded his investigation. They’re most active in warm temperatures, and these bees were agitated—too agitated for him to get anywhere near the boxes without getting stung.

Cops returned later, this time after dark, and found what Fresno Detective Andres Solis called a “chop shop” for hives. A man in full beekeeper regalia—veil and all—was sitting in a passage between some stacked boxes that seemed to be his workspace. He appeared to be in the process of splitting each colony into two, so he’d have twice as many hives to market. (Half the hives would then be without a queen, of course, but healthy hives often split anyway, when they get overpopulated. The bees make a new queen from a fertilized egg.) Nearby was a station where someone had been sanding and repainting, as well as a stencil for the name that had been sloppily spray-painted on many of the boxes: Allstate Apiaries Inc.

That was the name of the apiary operated by the man detectives arrested there, a 51-year-old Ukrainian immigrant named Pavel Tveretinov, who’d been renting hives to local almond growers and selling them to buyers around the U.S.

Detectives asked a local beekeeper named Ryan Cousins to come down to the lot and help them ID the hives so they could begin the process of getting the very angry insects back to their rightful owners. Cunniff’s boxes weren’t marked, but they were handmade and had a unique configuration of frames inside. Cousins recognized them from photos Valeri Strachan had posted on Facebook.

Several of the thousands of recovered beehives near Sanger, Calif., on May 16, 2017.PHOTOGRAPHER: SCOTT SMITH/AP PHOTO

The police called the Cunniffs in Montana, and Lloyd and Brenda drove immediately to Great Falls to catch a flight to Fresno. They were on a stopover in Salt Lake City when a detective called with an update. “He said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but we found two more locations with your bees since you got on the plane this morning!’ ” Cunniff recalls.

In California he went immediately to one of the lots and wandered through the rows of tipped and broken boxes, angry bees buzzing around his head. “Hives were tipped over and mixed together,” Cunniff says. “Oh God, it was like a nightmare.” Many had been split from their normal two-story configuration into single hives, not to mention painted over and affixed with the new stencil. He spotted some hives that looked familiar. He pulled out his phone and called the young man he’d met near Yuba City the day his own hives were taken, the one who said he’d lost 300 hives and was sure they were gone forever. He thought he ought to tell him he was right: None of his bees were left. “It was just empty equipment,” Cunniff says.

The authorities recovered more than 600 hives at the three locations, stolen over the course of at least three years. They charged Tveretinov, along with another Ukrainian immigrant, Vitaliy Yeroshenko, with 10 felony counts of possession of stolen property, and estimated that the value of the stolen equipment and bees was at least $875,000, making it “the largest bee-theft investigation we’ve ever had,” says Arley Terrence, a sergeant in the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Beekeepers from three states flew in to assess the damage and salvage what they could. “We had no intention of bringing anything home,” Cunniff says. The insurance company had told him not to. “But once we got down there, there was so much equipment, we just couldn’t leave it.”

Cousins called some friends, who brought a truck and a forklift and helped Cunniff load his gear and the remaining bees. The truck wasn’t big enough to carry it all, so they left some overnight, and when they went back in the morning it was gone. “They had come in and stolen some of the stuff, again,” Cunniff says. It was later recovered, again.

In beekeeper circles, it’s widely believed the arrested men are part of a larger criminal enterprise. But neither the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office nor the district attorney assigned to the case is pursuing that angle. The trial has yet to be scheduled, and the defendants have pleaded not guilty. Detectives initially feared the men would be a flight risk, but they’ve appeared at every hearing. “I’m a little surprised that they keep showing up,” Sheriff’s office spokesman Tony Botti says. “But they’re still insisting they’ve done nothing wrong. I don’t understand it.”

Sometime this fall, Kelsey Peterson, a deputy district attorney and agriculture crimes prosecutor, will open the state’s case against the two defendants in a courtroom at the Fresno County Courthouse, which itself looks very much like a honeycomb. As of late May, her investigator, Doug Bolton, was still pursuing leads in the hope that she might be able to add theft charges on top of possession. “I’d like to do that for the victims,” Peterson says.

Cunniff trucked his bees home last summer, but he and Brenda had already started over with all new hives, most of them started with Carniolan queens either given to him or sold at an extreme discount by the Strachans. “We were starting over, and then all of a sudden these other bees show up,” he says. He had to quarantine the old bees, to make sure they hadn’t picked up any diseases. “That’s like a whole different operation. You can’t go work on those colonies and then come work on the new colonies unless you sterilize all your equipment and change gloves,” he says. “I had to hire three or four guys just to try to keep up with all these different things that we were doing at the same time.”

Insurance covered a chunk of his losses, but not the loss of income from the missed almond season or all the honey he couldn’t make last year. This year his policy premiums jumped $8,000. The insurance company also decided it would no longer cover lost bees, only equipment.

That’s why, when January 2018 rolled around, Cunniff was once more doing the thing he’d hated to do in the first place, the thing he’d thought he’d never do again. He stacked his hives—456 of them—on a truck, strapped them down, and headed for California. This time he took precautions. Instead of bringing in the hives early to settle in and acclimate—but also give “everybody that’s crooked a chance to scope everything out and drive around and find stuff that’s easy to get to”—Cunniff waited until the last possible minute to take them west.

Unlike last year, the bees all came home. “They made some money, and we got them back in pretty good shape,” he says.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-06-26/how-to-steal-50-million-bees

(Thank you to Bloomberg Businessweek from the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association.)

Almond Alliance Hails Funding For Bee Program

Morning AG Clips    The Buzz     June 21, 2018

Bee Safe program will ensure the safe movement of colonies, prevent apiary theft, more

Honey bees are essential for a successful almond crop. The single most important factor determining a good yield is pollination during the bloom period, and honey bees are the most successful pollinators of almonds blossoms. (Roberto García Ruiz, Flickr/Creative Commons)SACREMENTO — The Almond Alliance of California is proud to announce that, in partnership with the California State Beekeepers Association, our team led agricultural stakeholders to successfully advocate for $1.9 million for one-to-three years in additional, dedicated state funds for the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s new Bee Safe program. This program will ensure the safe movement of colonies, prevent apiary theft and convene stakeholders on best management practices.

Almond Alliance President Elaine Trevino pointed out, “Additionally, we will be pushing forward to have the legislature commit to increasing staffing at border stations and streamline inspections during the peak pollination season.”

Honey bees are essential for a successful almond crop. The single most important factor determining a good yield is pollination during the bloom period, and honey bees are the most successful pollinators of almonds blossoms.

The Almond Alliance testified in favor of the CDFA’s Bee Safe Program funding request during state legislative hearings on Gov. Brown’s proposed budget. (Note: This preceding statement is from an April 20, 2018 Alliance newsletter article on the funding request) Trevino praised the collective efforts which resulted in successfully securing the funding. “We are thankful for the efforts by the California State Beekeepers Association and the Almond Board of California in providing critically important research and data about the importance of bees to the California almond industry,” said Trevino. “These funds will aid greatly in efforts to ensure the safe movement of hives, prevent apiary theft and educate beekeepers and almond growers on best management practices.”

According to the CDFA, pollinator health is behind the Bee Safe Program, which will begin on July 1, 2018 with a $1.9 million budget appropriation intended to improve the health and survival of honeybees by increasing foraging opportunities, reducing pesticide exposure, and providing funds for enforcement of existing laws at the local level to promote and protect California’s beekeeping industry.

Each year, thousands of shipments carrying more than 650,000 beehives are transported into California in time for the almond bloom. Honeybees help pollinate at least 90 different crops in addition to almonds, including berries, cucumbers, cantaloupes and apples.

About the Almond Alliance of California 

The Almond Alliance of California (AAC) was formerly the Almond Hullers and Processors Association and is a trusted non-profit organization with a mission of advocating on behalf of the Almond industry in California. AAC actively advocates for the positions of almond growers, hullers, shellers, handers and processors, while educating the industry about upcoming and existing regulatory changes.  Through workshops, newsletters, conferences and meetings, AAC serves as a clearing house of information that informs the almond industry and continues to position the industry as an agricultural leader in the state.  

AAC works to educate its voluntary members and partners on upcoming and existing regulatory issues that will impact the almond industry.  AAC is governed by a nine-person Board of Directors including a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Chief Financial Officer, and Secretary.

~Almond Alliance of California

https://www.morningagclips.com/almond-alliance-hails-funding-for-bee-program/

16 Hives Stolen in Madera County

California State Beekeepers Association    March 15, 2018

16 hives were stolen in Madera County in the last 3 weeks. The hives were set along the west side of Road 19 just north of Ave 26 near the city of Chowchilla, CA

See photos of similar hives, most hives are marked with a large pink colored “C” and or branded with the name “COLVA”.

Christina Colva at 307-851-1326
Ryan Cosyns at 559-232-2200

Beekeepers Feel The Sting Of California's Great Hive Heist

NPR The Salt    All Things Considered  June 27, 2017

Beehives in an apiary Daniel Milchev/Getty Images

Seventy-one million. That's the number of bees Max Nikolaychuk tends in the rolling hills east of Fresno, Calif. Each is worth a fraction of a cent, but together, they make up a large part of his livelihood.

Nikolaychuk makes most of his money during almond pollination season, renting out the bees to California's almond orchards. This year, a thief stole four stacks of his hives.

"He knew about the bees, because he went through every bee colony I had and only took the good ones," he says. "But, you know, the bee yards — I don't have no security there, no fences."

That lack of security means his bees have been stolen more than once. And it's a type of theft that's been playing out all over the state's orchards.

Literally billions of bees are needed to pollinate California's almond crop. Not enough bees live in California year-round to do that. So they are trucked in from across the country, from places like Colorado, Arizona and Montana. Earlier this year, around a million dollars' worth of stolen bees were found in a field in Fresno County. Sgt. Arley Terrence with the Fresno County Sheriff's Department says it was a "beehive chop shop."

"There were so many different beehives and bee boxes owned by so many different victims," Terrence says. "All of these stolen bee boxes that we recovered — none of them were stolen in Fresno County."

The bees were stolen from across California, but they belong to beekeepers from around the country. A few thousand bee boxes disappear every year, but this bee heist was different.

"This is the biggest bee theft investigation that we've had," Terrence says. Most of the time, he says, beehive thieves turn out to be "someone within the bee community."

Earlier this year, California authorities uncovered this "beehive chop-shop" in a field in Fresno County. A single bee is worth a fraction of a cent, but there can be as many as 65,000 bees in each hive.

Earlier this year, California authorities uncovered this "beehive chop-shop" in a field in Fresno County. A single bee is worth a fraction of a cent, but there can be as many as 65,000 bees in each hive. Ezra Romero for NPR. That was the case in the giant heist earlier this year. The alleged thief, Pavel Tveretinov, was a beekeeper from Sacramento who used the stolen bees for pollination and then stashed them on a plot of land in Fresno County. He was arrested and could face around 10 years of jail time. And authorities say he didn't act alone. His alleged accomplice, Vitaliy Yeroshenko, has been charged and a warrant is out for his arrest.

Steve Godlin with the California State Beekeepers Association says the problem of hive theft gets worse every year.

"There used to be kind of a code of honor that you didn't mess with another man's bees," Godlin says. But the alleged perpetrators of this giant hive theft broke that code.

"He went way, way over the line, Godlin says. "It's just, you know, heart breaking when you go out and your bees are gone."

Godlin has had hives stolen in the past. He and many other beekeepers make their income not just from renting out hives but also from selling the honey the bees produce. So when bees are stolen, beekeepers lose out on both sources of income.

Godlin says it takes time to develop a new hive by introducing a new queen and developing honey. "Bees, you know, we have been hit by everything from vandals to bears to thieves. But the vandalism and thieving is the worst. You know, the one that hurts the most."

Godlin says his organization will pay a reward of up to $10,000 for tips leading to the prosecution of bee thieves. But that only relieves some of the sting.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/06/27/534128664/beekeepers-feel-the-sting-of-california-s-giant-beehive-heist

Related: /home/2017/6/23/two-men-charged-in-major-beehive-theft-targeting-central-val.html

Beekeepers Feel the Sting of California's Great Hive Heist

NPR The Salt   Heard on All Things Considered   By Ezra David Romero     June 27, 2017Beehives in an apiary Daniel Milchev/Getty Images

Heard on All Things Considered:

Seventy-one million. That's the number of bees Max Nikolaychuk tends in the rolling hills east of Fresno, Calif. Each is worth a fraction of a cent, but together, they make up a large part of his livelihood.

Nikolaychuk makes most of his money during almond pollination season, renting out the bees to California's almond orchards. This year, a thief stole four stacks of his hives.

"He knew about the bees, because he went through every bee colony I had and only took the good ones," he says. "But, you know, the bee yards — I don't have no security there, no fences."

That lack of security means his bees have been stolen more than once. And it's a type of theft that's been playing out all over the state's orchards.

Literally billions of bees are needed to pollinate California's almond crop. Not enough bees live in California year-round to do that. So they are trucked in from across the country, from places like Colorado, Arizona and Montana. Earlier this year, around a million dollars' worth of stolen bees were found in a field in Fresno County. Sgt. Arley Terrence with the Fresno County Sheriff's Department says it was a "beehive chop shop."

"There were so many different beehives and bee boxes owned by so many different victims," Terrence says. "All of these stolen bee boxes that we recovered — none of them were stolen in Fresno County."

The bees were stolen from across California, but they belong to beekeepers from around the country. A few thousand bee boxes disappear every year, but this bee heist was different.

"This is the biggest bee theft investigation that we've had," Terrence says. Most of the time, he says, beehive thieves turn out to be "someone within the bee community."

Earlier this year, California authorities uncovered this "beehive chop-shop" in a field in Fresno County. A single bee is worth a fraction of a cent, but there can be as many as 65,000 bees in each hive. Ezra Romero for NPRThat was the case in the giant heist earlier this year. The alleged thief, Pavel Tveretinov, was a beekeeper from Sacramento who used the stolen bees for pollination and then stashed them on a plot of land in Fresno County. He was arrested and could face around 10 years of jail time. And authorities say he didn't act alone. His alleged accomplice, Vitaliy Yeroshenko, has been charged and a warrant is out for his arrest.

Steve Godlin with the California State Beekeepers Association says the problem of hive theft gets worse every year.

"There used to be kind of a code of honor that you didn't mess with another man's bees," Godlin says. But the alleged perpetrators of this giant hive theft broke that code.

"He went way, way over the line, Godlin says. "It's just, you know, heart breaking when you go out and your bees are gone."

Godlin has had hives stolen in the past. He and many other beekeepers make their income not just from renting out hives but also from selling the honey the bees produce. So when bees are stolen, beekeepers lose out on both sources of income.

Godlin says it takes time to develop a new hive by introducing a new queen and developing honey. "Bees, you know, we have been hit by everything from vandals to bears to thieves. But the vandalism and thieving is the worst. You know, the one that hurts the most."

Godlin says his organization will pay a reward of up to $10,000 for tips leading to the prosecution of bee thieves. But that only relieves some of the sting.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/06/27/534128664/beekeepers-feel-the-sting-of-california-s-giant-beehive-heist

Two Men Charged in Major Beehive Theft Targeting Central Valley Almond Orchards

Los Angeles Times    By Veronica Rocha    June 23, 2017

In this May 16 file photo, several of the thousands of recovered beehives stolen in California are shown near Sanger, Calif. (Scott Smith / Associated Press)Fresno County prosecutors have charged two men in a series of beehive thefts that targeted Central Valley almond orchards.

Pavel Tveretinov, 51, and Vitaliy Yeroshenko, 48, are each facing nine felony counts of receiving stolen property and one misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property, with the allegation saying the stolen beehives were worth more than $200,000, according to the Fresno County district attorney’s office.

Tveretinov is being held in the Fresno County Jail. An arrest warrant has been issued for Yeroshenko.

Vitaliy Yeroshenko, 48, of Antelope (Fresno County Sheriff's Office)For more than a year, beekeepers throughout the Central Valley had been reporting hive thefts to local authorities. The thefts triggered concerns throughout the apiary industry, and an advisory went out to beekeepers, bee brokers and almond growers urging them to stay vigilant.

Authorities had been investigating the thefts for months, and then they finally on April 28.

When detectives visited an orchard in Fresno to follow up on a theft report, they spotted Tveretinov in a beekeeper suit tending to more than 100 beehives.

The beehives had been stolen from a Madera County orchard in March, according to the Madera County Sheriff’s Office.

Tveretinov was arrested, and investigators said they later discovered that he was behind a nearly $1-million beehive theft operation, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Pavel Tveretinov, a beekeeper from Sacramento, is accused of stealing beehives throughout the Central Valley, authorities said. (Fresno County Sheriff's Office)According to prosecutors, Tveretinov, a Sacramento resident, and Yeroshenko, an Antelope resident, had accumulated more than 1,200 beehives.

The beehives were stolen from 10 beekeepers over two years, prosecutors said. According to sheriff’s officials, most of the stolen hives belonged to out-of-state beekeepers, who rented out their colonies to California almond tree growers looking to pollinate their crops.

Sheriff’s investigators said Tveretinov stole the hives at night, when bees are dormant, and moved them on flatbed trailers around California and to other states. Tveretinov likely rented the hives out for cash, authorities said.

If convicted Tveretinov and Yeroshenko face more than 10 years in county jail, prosecutors said.

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-central-valley-beehive-theft-charges-20170623-story.html

The Great California Bee Heist: Authorities Identify Russian-Ukrainian Suspect

NBC News   By Tim Stelloh    May 15, 2017

In this undated image, men with special beekeeper hats assess Beeline Honey's stolen hives after they were recovered in Fresno County, California. Beeline HoneyIt was probably the biggest bee heist in California history: on January 17, hundreds of hives vanished from Sutter County, north of Sacramento.

Now, authorities believe they've identified a Russian-Ukrainian suspect in the crime — along with a string of other bee thefts that they believe he carried out in California and possibly beyond.

Pavel Tveretinov, 51, was arrested on April 28 in Madera County on suspicion of possessing stolen property, Fresno County Sheriff's Detective Andres Solis told NBC News.

But the charge was never officially filed after Fresno County took over the case, Solis said. The sheriff's office has not pursued additional charges, he added, "because it's probably going federal."

An FBI spokeswoman would not confirm or deny an investigation. Messages left at phone numbers for Tveretinov were not returned Monday.

Thefts have so far been documented in six California counties, Solis said. Ten victims have put their losses at nearly $1 million, he said.

Often, they were working in a booming almond business that attracts beekeepers from across the United States.

The bees pollinate almond trees, helping to produce a crop that cleared two billion pounds last year. In a single season, Solis said, a beekeeper can earn $180,000 after expenses.

"They're coming with their bees from all over the country," said Ryan Coysns, whose family farm has been in the bee business for 12 years.

The case against Tveretinov broke in March, after he brought a beekeeper from Missouri to a nursery in Fresno County that has long catered to the profession.

A beekeeper's equipment is often marked with unique identifiers, and the man from Missouri noticed hives that looked like they belonged to his friends, a couple that offers pollination and other services back home.

Plus, Solis added, the beekeeper also noticed that the equipment at the nursery didn't look right.

"It looked like a chop shop for bee hives," Solis said. "They're everywhere. They scattered and different kinds are mixed with other kinds."

Using FaceTime, the beekeeper dialed the couple. After showing them what he'd found, Solis said, they hopped on a plane to Fresno.

Solis said authorities later identified two other areas in the county that were being used to store stolen property.

At one of them, they found hundreds of the beehives that were stolen in Sutter County.

One of those unlucky beekeepers, Lloyd Cunniff, of Beeline Honey in Choteau, Montana, lost 488 hives, or enough bees to pollinate 244 acres of almond trees. He put his losses at more than $400,000.

Coysns described the crime — and a second one that occurred nearby the same night — as "probably the biggest bee theft ever."

On May 7, Cunniff got back two-thirds of his equipment, which had been spray-painted with somebody else's name. On Monday, the bees that survived were quarantined and being fed antibiotics and treated for mites.

Did Cunniff plan to return to California?

"If I'm short on money," he said. 

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/great-california-bee-heist-authorities-identify-russian-ukrainian-suspect-n759886

Bee Theft - 1/17/17 Sutter County

California State Beekeepers Association    By Joy Pendell   January 16, 2017

"I'm sorry to report that hive-theft season has begun.  Everybody keeps eyes/ears open, and those with grower contacts, please spread the word to them, too.  Let's try to catch these perps!" Carlen Jupe CSBA Sec/Treas.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Hive Theft Alert!

Last night (1/16/17), 482 hives were stolen from a bee yard in Sutter County. All the equipment (including pallets) is brand new and has no brand numbers. The hives are double-deep 8 framers with grey cedar lids on 4-way pallets. Pallets are an odd size: 28.5 x 46". Please contact the CSBA (via FB message, website, or [mailto:castatebeekeepers@hotmail.com with any tips. 

Two Would-Be Buglars Break-In Attempt Foiled By Their Intended Victims' Beehives

CATCH THE BUZZ   By Saundra Weathers, Reporter Channel 13 St. Petersburg    December 1, 2016

St. Petersburg Police are searching for a pair of would-be burglars whose break-in attempt was foiled by their intended victims’ beehives.

On Nov. 13, JoAnne Medenhall and her husband Burt woke up to bees everywhere and a damaged fence outside their St. Pete home. When they checked the video from their surveillance cameras, they discovered it was the work of burglars.

The video showed the two would-be intruders trying to scale the fence. One burglar literally falls right into Medenhall’s beehive after his foot kicked the top of the hive.

They also saw his accomplice kicking in the side of the fence and falling into another hive. Both burglars bolted before making it any further.

The Medenhalls couldn’t believe what they were seeing.

“First, we called the police and they were absolutely fantastic,” said JoAnne. “The officers that came out, one of them put on the bee suit and went back and took pictures, and then the other officer came out and did finger printing and everything. And then we put on our bee suits and came back out and put the hive back together the way it was supposed to be.”

The Medenhalls use the hives to make honey. They became bee keepers two years ago after their son gave them a beehive as a gift.

JoAnne said the bees are normally harmless unless they’re disturbed at night, which is when the incident happened. She said she’s pretty sure her sweet bees gave their unwanted guests more than they bargained for.

“I hope they got stung a lot and have learned a lesson about trying to break into people’s houses,” said JoAnne. “That there might not be on the other side of the fence what they think there’s going to be.”

Officers stated the need for the burglars to get treatment for their bee stings. They made it clear, however, that arresting the would-be home invaders was their top priority.

http://www.beeculture.com/catch-buzz-two-burglars-break-attempt-foiled-intended-victims-beehives/?utm_source=Catch+The+Buzz&utm_campaign=c443857f8c-Catch_The_Buzz_4_29_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0272f190ab-c443857f8c-256242233

CSBA News Update: October 17, 2016

California State Beekeepers Association   From Joy Pendell, CSBA Media Director   October 17, 2016

CSBA News Update for your reading enjoyment. Happy reading! 

Disclaimer: Inclusion of items in this email does not imply CSBA endorsement unless such endorsement is specifically stated.

Should Read

Hive Theft Alert – See pictures

The theft season has begun early this year! Olivarez Honey Bees discovered 8 beehives missing on 10/12/16 from a bee yard west of Corning, CA. The hives were on bottom boards, which were loose on pallets. The hives, bottom boards and pallets were all taken. Because the hives were loose on pallets, it is possible (and even likely) that everything was moved by hand. The hives are 8-frame double deeps, white, and branded 42-51. 

 

Olivarez Honey Bees also suffered the theft of queen banks in April of this year. At least 150 queens were taken. There was a report of someone trying to sell OHB queens for cash outside of the Mann Lake bee supply store in Woodland, CA shortly thereafter.

Ray Olivarez is personally offering a $2500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for either the theft of the hives or the theft of the queen banks. This is in addition to the up to $10,000 reward the CSBA offers. Please contact the CSBA at castatebeekeepers@hotmail.com to report any information.



Nice to Read
 

WAS – News From The World Of Beekeeping 

WAS – News From the World Of Beekeeping 

Catch The Buzz – Almond Industry Slams Land Use Study For Inaccuracies  

Capital Press - Researchers Test Almonds In Idaho  

Catch The Buzz – Healthy Snack Market Growing During ‘War On Sugar’  

ABF - 2017 North American Beekeeping Conference & Tradeshow Agenda

Beekeeping Survey

A group of Slovenian Students is seeking information to assist in their research. Please participate!

 New York Times – Bee-2-B

Catch The Buzz – White House Kitchen Garden Will Continue With Funding Provided By Burpee Seed Co. To National Park Foundation

Scientific American - A Plan to Defend against the War on Science  

UC Davis – World Of Honey Tasting Series

UC Davis – Honey and Pollination Center October Newsletter

   YouTube – Morning Bees

 

Beekeepers Feel the Sting of Stolen Hives

NPR The Salt  By Jodi Helmer    June 6, 2016  

Between December and March, beekeepers send millions of hives to California to pollinate almond trees. Not all of the hives make it back home.

"The number of beehive thefts is increasing," explains Jay Freeman, a detective with the Butte County Sheriff's Office.

In California, 1,734 hives were stolen during peak almond pollination season in 2016. In Butte County alone, the number of stolen hives jumped from 200 in 2015 to 400 this year, according to Freeman.

Denise Qualls, a California bee broker who arranges contracts between beekeepers and almond growers, isn't surprised that beehive thefts are on the rise.

Continue reading: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/06/06/480192314/beekeepers-feel-the-sting-of-stolen-hiveshttp://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/06/06/480192314/beekeepers-feel-the-sting-of-stolen-hive

Bug Squad: "As Bees Vanish"

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey    February 18, 2016

As bees vanish, bee heists multiply!" screamed a Feb 16th headline in TheWashington Post.

So true.

For her news story, reporter Jenny Starrs interviewed "Bee Detective" Jay Freeman of the Butte County Sheriff's Office (he's a detective all year long but a "bee detective" during almond pollination season and he also keeps bees).

"At the start of pollination season in 2010, the average hive cost $130 to rent," Starrs wrote. "Rental fees are $200 this year, and will continue going up as hives continue to die off. The industry is becoming increasingly volatile, increasingly expensive and thus, increasingly criminalized."

In past years, we remember hearing about several hives stolen here, several hives stolen there, and a few more over there. But now bee hive thievery is rampant.  Detective Freeman reported hundreds of hives stolen and cited the numbers: 240 from an operation in Colusa County, 64 from an operation in Butte, 280 in Sutter County...the list seems endless.

The California State Beekeepers' Association has now set up Bee Theft Alerts on its web page.

It's good to see that the CSBA is offering a reward up to $10,000 for the arrest and conviction of persons stealing CSBA members' bees or equipment. CSBA is also encouraging beekeepers to report the thefts, no matter how small.

It's working. The Butte County Sheriff's Office arrested a suspect Feb. 6 and charged him with stealing 64 bee hives  from Olivarez Honey Bees Inc. in Chico and trucking them to a Stanislaus County almond orchard.

Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology--his career spanned 38 years--told us last week that apparently beekeepers or people with beekeeping knowledge are stealing the hives. "Maybe they used to work for some of these beekeeping operations, and know where the hives are," he said. So, in the dead of the night, the thieves are moving in the big trucks and forklifts, hauling them away, and then renting them to unsuspecting almond growers. The culprits pocket the money and never return for "their" colonies.

“Most people, when they lose their hives, figure they're never going to get found,” California State Beekeepers' Association media director Joy Pendell told Starrs. “It's very frustrating for us, because we go all winter without any income. So we put all this money and work into them for months, and we're about to have our payday and someone just goes and steals it.”

The Bee Culture journal, edited by Kim Flottom, has also sounded the alert.

"If you have had any hives stolen within the last couple years, please email Joy Pendell directly at jpendell11@gmail.com with brand numbers, a description and pictures," Flottum wrote. "The California State Beekeepers would like to create a complete history of hive theft in our industry to share with law enforcement and interested media outlets. If you know of a theft victim who is not a CSBA member, please pass along this information so they can report as well. The CSBA represents the interests of all California beekeepers plus they would like to create a summary of bee theft both inside and outside of our organization."

At a recent meeting of the California Bee Breeders' Association that we attended in Ordbend, Glenn County, members talked about stepping up patrols and recruiting volunteers to monitor remote areas at night and early morning.

Just call it "The Sting" operation.

Unfortunately, all this bee thievery may worsen. Gordy Wardell recently reported in the Project Apis mnewsletter that California's total number of almond acreage is now at 1 million.

 

  http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=20253

Arrest Made in Butte County Beehive Theft

7KRCR News    By Haleigh Pike    February 17, 2016

The Butte County Sheriff's Office said a man was arrested after stealing 64 beehives from Olivarez Honey Bees Inc. in Chico.

Officials said on Thursday, February 4, Olivarez Honey Bees Inc. reported that 64 beehives were stolen from a location in Chico. Officials said tire tracks left at the scene indicated that the suspect used a flatbed truck and a pull behind forklift to steal the hives. Officials added the hives were being kept behind a locked gate and the suspect cut the lock to access the area.

Butte County Deputies said on Saturday, February 6, the 64 stolen beehives were located in Stanislaus County, Ca. Officials said the hives were in the process of being rented through a bee broker to an almond grower in Oakdale, Ca. for almond pollination.

Officials said Jacob William Spath of Chico was found in possession of the beehives and was arrested by the Butte County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, February 17 for grand theft. Officials do not believe Spath is involved in or responsible for any other beehive thefts at this time.

http://www.krcrtv.com/arrest-made-in-butte-county-beehive-theft/38047278

As Bees Vanish, Bee Heists Multiply

The Washington Post    By Jenny Starrs    February 16, 2016

The bee industry is vital to California's massive almond production. Watch how hives
are moved between orchards and just how thieves can swoop in to steal them.
(Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Jay Freeman is a run-of-the-mill detective in Butte County, Calif. He spends most of the year investigating robberies and homicides. “Just general felonies,” he said.

But that all changes during pollination season. Every February, his caseload turns to a different kind of grand theft. One that has a very low recovery rate and ends up costing business owners hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

Detective Freeman starts chasing bee thieves.

The bee economy in California is immense. Eighty-two percent of the world’s almonds are produced within a 400-mile stretch in the state. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of un-gated almond orchards in California, all of which need to be pollinated in the span of a few weeks in February — by an ever-dwindling bee population. Beekeepers come in from across the country to fulfill contracts with farmers and brokers, moving hives to and fro on forklifts and flatbed trucks. And they come with a steep price that’s getting steeper every year.

At the start of pollination season in 2010, the average hive cost $130 to rent. Rental fees are $200 this year, and will continue going up as hives continue to die off. The industry is becoming increasingly volatile, increasingly expensive and thus, increasingly criminalized.

Detective Freeman can tick off hundreds of hives stolen since the current season began — 240 in Colusa County, 64 in Butte, 280 in Sutter County, 100 more in Butte. The list goes on.

“The numbers – the 240 and 280 is a little unusual,” Detective Freeman told The Washington Post. “In the past few years when I’ve been investigating hive thefts, it’s been 20 here, 40 there. There was one that was 128, but it seemed to be significantly lower in number than the ones this year.”

Two hundred eighty stolen hives equates to a $100,000 loss for a beekeeper, Detective Freeman said. And the culprits come from within the beekeeping community itself. Motivations vary, but the detective theorizes that many beekeepers struggle to fulfill their contracts as hives die off, and turn to stealing from fellow keepers to meet their obligations and generate revenue.

“They could be large-scale beekeepers or just a smaller hobbyist or sideliner who’s trying to make a few bucks in the almond pollination,” the detective said.

Hives are normally grouped together on large pallets, so it takes forklifts and trucks to move them – things beekeepers all have. And with so many beehives on the road this month, it’s near impossible to tell when a truck is carting stolen goods.

“Most people, when they lose their hives, figure they’re never going to get found,” said Joy Pendell, a California beekeeper and media director at the California State Beekeepers Association. “It’s very frustrating for us, because we go all winter without any income. So we put all this money and work into them for months, and we’re about to have our payday and someone just goes and steals it.”

Pendell can count 500 hives stolen just from association members, and cites “easily over a thousand” in the whole state this year. And the solutions to these thefts – GPS devices and private security firms – chip into the profits of already struggling beekeepers.

“It’s always been a really old-fashioned industry,” Pendell said. There are labelling requirements for bee equipment, but even Detective Freeman admits that many keepers don’t brand all of their hives.

“There does need to be a registration process,” she said. “A good, clear registration process…Hopefully we can get some legislation passed in the next few years.”

None of Pendell’s hives have been stolen yet, but she said it’s something that’s constantly on her mind. With a legislated and enforced registration process still far off for California beekeepers, they rely largely on tips, the honesty of bee brokers and the hard work of Detective Freeman.

He laughs and shrugs off the title “bee detective,” but admits that he has taken on a rather specialized job.

“I’ve become the point of contact for a lot of the beekeepers,” Detective Freeman said. “A few years ago we had a few bee thefts that took place and I got assigned to investigate the cases. And I didn’t know anything about bees or hives or pollination.”

He turned out to be a quick learner. Detective Freeman was fascinated with the industry, and even started to raise bees himself.

“I’m small in the grand scheme of things, I have a hundred hives. A lot of these people have several hundred or several thousand,” said Detective Freeman. He cultivates and rents out his hives just like any other beekeeper.

“He’s just really helpful,” Pendell said, and keeps in close touch with her and the rest of the California State Beekeepers Association. And his immersion in the bee industry has started tipping the odds in his favor; he’s actually recovered hives, which is an unexpected feat in the beekeeping business.

This year, 64 stolen hives have been recovered so far. They were located through a tip, were recovered from a broker’s possession and are still under investigation. But Detective Freeman said has a suspect. He’s closing in, but not disclosing much.

“I want to make sure this person is held accountable and used as an example,” he said.

Sixty-four hives hives may seem small when compared to the thousands disappearing this month. But if Freeman’s investigation is successful, the thief will face grand theft charges, which could add up to three years behind bars. That’s three years of not cultivating hives, of no money made during the annual pollination season, of no contracts. The beekeeping industry is many things — old-fashioned, expensive, intricate – but is unlikely to be forgiving as it deals with the questionable health of bee populations in the U.S. and the hive thefts that have resulted.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/02/16/the-bee-detective-of-butte-county-calif/

Beehive Thefts Add to Pressures at Bloom Time

California Farm Bureau Federation - Ag Alert    By Christine Sousa    February 10, 2016

Just as honeybees are being moved into orchards to pollinate the state's almond crop, thieves are stealing commercial beehives from roadside and bee yard locations, disrupting operations for beekeepers and almond growers whose trees are days away from bloom.

Kevin Sprague, whose family operates Sprague Apiaries in Yuba City, discovered early last week that 280 of his beehives were missing, as they were about to be moved into nearby almond orchards in Arbuckle. He estimated the loss at $100,000, which includes both pollination income and the overall value of the hives.

"The hives (marked with the company name, address and phone number) were stolen from two different locations along Highway 20, just east of Sutter," said Sprague, a third-generation apiarist. "The hives were visible from the highway and had been there all winter, so they (thieves) certainly had lots of time to plan. They came with two or three trucks and a couple of forklifts. They were organized."

Worried that he might be short of beehives for his almond grower client, Sprague said the company will check with other beekeepers to purchase any extra hives that do not yet have a home in the almonds. He said his concern is that a shortage of bees may be enticing thieves to steal hives.

"The bees are scarcer this year and this has driven up price, and then thieves try and make a quick dollar," Sprague said. "I've heard that they'll steal the hives, put them in the farmer's orchards and come and get the money. They will abandon the bees in the orchards; they just take the money and run."

The California State Beekeepers Association reported that during the week of Jan. 25, about 240 beehives owned by C.F. Koehnen & Sons of Glenn County were allegedly stolen from two bee yards, both located north of Colusa. The hives, lids, frames and pallets are branded with "42-14."

During the same week, Riverside County beekeeper James Wickerd of Happie Bee Co. reported that 210 of his beehives were stolen in Kern County. The boxes contain Wickerd's name, address and phone number, and the brand CA0330333H.

"The hives could be seen along the I-5 freeway. They came in with forklifts and took about 210 hives, valued at $50,000 plus," Wickerd said. "They can put them on pollination right now for $150 or more a hive, and then there is the value of the hive and the (honey) production losses for the year."

Wickerd added that the losses include "all of the work that has been put into them to keep them alive with feeding and medication and pollen to get them in the shape that they are in."

Sprague expressed the same concern, noting the investment of money plus thousands of hours devoted to building and caring for the hives: "We work on the hives all year to get ready for spring. It will take me the whole year to recuperate what we lost."

Christi Heintz, executive director of Project Apis m., a Paso Robles-based organization that focuses on enhancing honeybee health, said beekeepers have worked very hard ever since the end of last year's pollination season, splitting colonies, increasing colony numbers and spending millions of dollars on supplemental feed to have sufficient, strong colonies available for the 2016 pollination season.

Beekeepers from California and across the U.S. have already moved about 1.8 million honeybee colonies into the state to pollinate the almond crop. Bee colony supplies are usually tight at this time of year, and observers said the added pressures of drought, lack of forage, and impacts from pests and diseases have made the difference in supplies even more pronounced.

Elina L. Niño, University of California, Davis, Extension apiculturist, noted in her latest university newsletter on apiculture that "the reports of failing colonies before the winter even started are numerous. This, combined with the much needed rainfall in California, might be driving the price of hive rental up to $200."

Wickerd said he has additional hives available to cover the contract with his almond grower client but added that, like other beekeepers, he will look at high-tech ways to protect his bees in the future.

"We're going to have to electronically protect them. If we have something that is high-tech that is connected to the satellite that can tell where the bees are, if the location of the bees changes, we can go find them," Wickerd said. "We're going to go to satellite, where it can be traced from a computer and at a long distance."

Sutter County Sheriff's Office Lt. Dan Buttler agreed beekeepers would benefit from implementing newer technology, such as use of global positioning systems or trail cameras, to protect their valuable bees and trace bees that are stolen.

"You can get lower-end GPS devices that are motion sensitive, and they can put those on the box. It would alert them that these boxes are being moved, so we could pick them off in transit," Buttler said. "Obviously, locked gates are always a good thing, surveillance is a good thing, and high-tech is a good thing."

Other tips for preventing bee theft:

  • Beekeepers should locate bees out of sight and off of the road, and mark hives, lids and frames with identifying information so that recovered bees can be traced back to the owner.
  • Almond growers and others paying for pollination services should verify that colonies out in the orchard or field match up with the contract they have with their beekeeper.

CSBA offers up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for stealing bees and/or beekeeping equipment; learn more at castatebeekeepers@hotmail.com.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.

http://www.agalert.com/story/?id=9297

CSBA: Reward for Beehive Theft Capture

 CSBA  Press Release   February 4, 2016

The CSBA offers up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of persons responsible for stealing bees and/or beekeepers equipment. We take the issue of hive theft very seriously and are willing to generously reward those who help us stop this growing problem. Don't hesitate to ask questions and check for brand numbers on frames, boxes, lids and pallets. 

Additionally, the CSBA owners of stolen hives have given assurance that if a farmer reports he/she has stolen hives, they will allow the hives to stay for the remainder of the bloom. We do not want to punish farmers for doing the right thing by putting their crop at risk. We want all farmers to feel comfortable to report the hives without worrying about them being taken out from under them during a critical time.

BEE THEFT ALERT #1

Another hive theft has occurred near Kern County within sight of I-5. The thieves are getting bolder and we all must be vigilant. The theft occurred around January 26-27th, 2016. The hives are branded with CA0330333H. This theft may or may not be related to the last major theft (see below).  

Hive Description: All hives are 10 frames. The hives are made of a deep super with a 6 5/8 shallow on top. The hives are painted silver and have internal feeders and a mixture of wooden and plastic frames. The hives are on pallets with the entrances all facing the same direction. The lids, boxes and most of the frames are branded with CA0330333H. The bees are Italians with cordovan (light-colored and reddish) genetics. Pictures will soon follow.  

If you are around any bee hives you are unfamiliar with, don't hesitate to look for brand numbers. Thieves often times switch the frames into different boxes to avoid being caught so be aware that the outside appearance of the hive may not match the description. If you see any frames with the CA0330333H brand on them, they are from stolen hives and you should contact castatebeekeepers@hotmail.com immediately to report the information.

BEE THEFT ALERT #2

240 hives were stolen near Colusa, CA around January 25-26th, 2016. All boxes, lids, frames and pallets are branded with 42-14. Please take a careful look at the picture and if you see hives that fit the description, don’t hesitate to check for brand numbers and call the Sheriff’s department. You can also email us at castatebeekeepers@hotmail.com and we can pass along the information for you.  These hives could easily be anywhere in California by now. It is very likely that the hives will be destroyed after pollination season to cover up the crime. In the interest of saving these bees, it is critical we all do our part to locate these hives.

Description: All the hives are 10-frame double deeps. The boxes are branded on the top cleats. The pallets have metal on the corners. Some of the feed cans and boxes were taken as well. The feed cans are painted green and slightly rusty. The feed can boxes are branded too and most of them hold 8 cans (some may hold 4). The bees are Italian and have Cordovan genetics (most will appear light colored and/or slightly reddish).

Location: The hives were taken from 2 yards, both located north of Colusa on the east side of the river. One yard was about 2 miles from the river and the other about 3 miles from the river.

Thief Description: Based on the tracks, it looks like a bee forklift was used to move the hives. The trucks appear to have dual tires. It is suspected that either 2 big trucks or 3 smaller trucks were used to move the hives.

Please share this information with your club, almond grower and in your community. Hive theft is a growing problem and we all need to keep an eye out for each other. Thank you for helping in this effort.

(Photo Source: California State Beekeepers Association)

http://www.californiastatebeekeepers.com/news.html