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Bee Thieves

The story out of Fresno began, "The bee industry is buzzing over the arrest of a man accused of stealing thousands of hives worth nearly $1 million from California's almond orchards in one of the biggest such thefts on record…"

The unexplained mass bee die-offs coupled to the booming demand for almonds, whose annual crop is dependent on pollination, have helped drive up the value of hives.

Police investigators say a Russian called Tveretinov is the prime suspect in the thefts, which he and his accomplices carry out at night when the bees are dormant.

Last January, more than 700 hives vanished from two orchards north of Sacramento. They were recovered in Fresno, more than 200 miles to the south.

The culprit? Tveretinov, the midnight Rooskie. He was responsible for stealing 2,500 hives and equipment valued at $875,000, police say. He was arrested, charged with a misdemeanor, and released on a minimum bail of $10,000.

Beekeeper Patrick Kalfsbeek, known to many of our readers as the pleasant young guy who is setting up bee hives in the Anderson Valley and on up to Albion, comments on the hive thefts:

”The last few years have seen substantial numbers of hives stolen. This year the thefts received press coverage. Koehnen (C.F. Koehnen & Sons in Glenn) was hit for hundreds in 2016, Sprague Apiary in Yuba City too.

Last year a friend was setting bees into an orchard, south of Modesto, where the existing keeper had fallen apart — poor hives due to near abandonment. When my friend Trevor went to set the hives he saw boxes from Olivarez of Orland. Knowing Olivarez would have no need to travel south, Trevor contacted the grower, the broker, etc. The bad keeper was arrested. Olivarez said the hives had been stolen two years prior. Seems to me the authorities should have looked at what the broker was paying for the hives. Olivarez and Koehnens names were on the hives. And what happened to the thieving keeper? These sorts of thefts are not pursued and punished as they should be. The keeper in the recent article stole $875,000 worth of hives and equipment and is allowed release on $10,000 bond?

Approximately five years ago I was nicked for 160 hives in the Arbuckle area. I had a good idea of who had stolen them. The Sherriff's Office spent zero time pursuing the recovery of my hives. After the 160, I lost 120 in the Gridley area while pollinating prunes. About the same time my hives were stolen a father-son act was stealing hives. I identified the stolen hives for the Sherriff’s Department and contacted the rightful owner who came to the orchard and said, Yes they were his hives. The father-son act was convicted of a misdemeanor and put on probation and allowed to continue to work/steal because they claimed financial hardship.

Trevor tells me that in 2012 or 2013 a man stole hundreds of hives from him and that he found the hives. The thief was convicted of a misdemeanor and ordered to pay Trevor $70,000. But Trevor receives only $50 a month and runs into the guy regularly in the area’s bee supply store.

PS. People do put up cameras. A friend in the Dixon area was able to finger thieves stealing irrigation pipe using his bee yard for a staging area. He is the only keeper I know to have success with cameras. Another I know gets some nice wildlife shots. Remote cameras take a lot of maintenance, are susceptible to being stolen and add one more duty to a group already short of hands to accomplish what is necessary. We use around 60 to 80 different yards.

Hives and the frames inside are usually branded. Keepers use paint schemes particular to their outfit. I brand everything and my name and telephone number are prominent on the box making it a little tougher to paint over.

The yards are usually rented and if by chance they are gated it is very good. Many yards, especially in the winter when access is an issue, are moved to spots that stay dry and accessible to both keepers and bad guys... Theft is most likely in the months of January and February when bees begin being placed in the almond orchards.

I do not know of anyone talking with the DA. My experience has been that law enforcement is much more interested in drug busts. With the recent publicity of hive thefts maybe police will pay a little more attention to the wearied beekeeper.

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