bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The chips are down for bee rustlers

Beekeepers in the almond orchards of California are starting to microchip their hives to try to avoid theft says the San Jose Mercury News, the local newspaper for Silicon Valley's technology companies. The microchips are similar to those used to track pets and advertising their presence may be a greater theft deterrent than traditional branding of hives.
“It's one of the toughest crimes to investigate,” said detective Jeff Reed of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. Reed is one of four Stanislaus County officers who specialize in agricultural crime. The sheer size of orchards makes them difficult to police. And the crimes usually occur late at night, when bees are calm.
The thieves rent out the hives to growers desperate for almond pollinators. One beekeeper says that 64 of his hives were stolen last year. He recovered 56, but the colonies weren't in great condition.

With pollination contracts at about $60 per hive, relocating 50 of someone else's hives could fetch $3000. Night work, if you can get it.

Updates: I & II.