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Thieves are targeting beekeeping equipment, and the costs could get passed on to the environment

Posted at 2:51 PM, Mar 03, 2022

It's the busiest time of year for beekeepers. Billions of honeybees from across the country have been shipped to California for almond pollination season.

Almonds are California's top crop, bringing in billions of dollars for the state every year. The state grows so many almonds, in fact, that they rely on out-of-state beekeepers to ship in pollinators to allow the trees to bloom.

But thieves have stolen more than a thousand beehives in the past few weeks, and it's costing beekeepers. It's been a growing problem that has prompted some to start putting GPS trackers inside the hives.

BeeHero, a company that has developed a sensor to help beekeepers maintain their hives, says the location tracking feature has actually helped get stolen equipment back.

"Because we had some of our systems there, we managed to identify the location, and the local sheriff went there and actually caught the guy who stole the the equipment," said Omer Davidi, the CEO and co-founder of BeeHero. "So, I think that the thieves are probably smart enough not to steal those hives where they can see the sensors. And I hope that's going to be good enough to make this phenomenon stop."

Stolen hives and equipment costs beekeepers thousands of dollars and can have a big ripple effect.

BeeHero says if there are fewer bees to pollinate crops and prices for farmers go up, consumers end up paying more at the grocery store.

It could also mean danger for the environment. Most thieves are likely not trained beekeepers, and if they're not caring for the bees properly, Davidi says mites can get into the hives and cause disease to spread.

"As farming becomes more and more intense and we have monoculture and a lot of crops in the same location, which requires a lot of hives to be in the same location, the same time, every mistake of a single player can affect other places in the industry, and that's not sustainable," Davidi said.

Davidi also encourages the public to report any hive thefts they may suspect to local authorities and for beekeepers to write their names on equipment, so if a stolen hive ends up on social media, it's easier to track down the rightful owner.