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No, seriously… this actually happened and honey crime is a really big issue. A man in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand has been arrested with $40,000 worth of allegedly stolen honey. The arrest took place early on Friday morning. During the police search of his residence beeswax, a shotgun and ammunition were also found.
James O’Keefe, 41, will go to court on chargers of burglary and receiving stolen property in relation to a large scale theft of honey. In the mean time, he will remain in custody.
A senior sergeant at the Eastern District Command Centre, Mike Stevenson, said that the theft had a major impact “”on hardworking business-people and our local community”. He went on to say, “While investigations remain ongoing, Hawke’s Bay Police are pleased to be able to hold this male to account”
Karin Kos, the CEO of Apiculture New Zealand said, “The arrest was a good outcome and sent a clear message that the Police were taking honey and beehive theft seriously. Honey and beehive theft has become a growing issue for New Zealand beekeepers over the last few years, with the total value of these thefts estimated in the millions. It’s devastating for those beekeepers targeted by thieves and we’re pleased to see the police make this significant arrest. A few years ago you saw the odd isolated incident. Today we’re seeing it occur on a much wider scale. We’re seeing larger hives targeted. Police are very aware of it. I know police have talked about honey theft being attractive to organised crime”
Karin Kos also said that Apiculture New Zealand and the police were working closely together to limit further honey thefts at both a regional and national level. She went on to state that both organisations have been taking time to educate beekeepers on ways to keep their hives and honey safe such as tracking devices and cameras. Ms Kos continued to outline that there were over 800,000 registered beehives in new Zealand which is double the number of registered beehives five years ago.
Previously, Kos has said, “Where once we’d see the odd isolated regional incident, today we’re seeing theft occur on a much wider scale. We’re seeing multiple hives targeted. And clearly the increased prices we’re getting for New Zealand honey, particularly manuka honey, that is undoubtedly a factor behind the trend.”
The New Zealand honey gold-rush
This is not an isolated crime but merely the newest in a string that has been dubbed the New Zealand honey gold-rush. In one incident in 2016, more than 500 hives were taken from a forestry block in Northland. Regarding this incident, National community policing coordinator senior sergeant Alasdair Macmillan said, “You’re not going to get someone just driving past thinking, ‘Oh, there’s 500 hives, I’m going to steal them.’ It’s got to be organised, you’ve got to have the person power, you’ve got to have the transportation.” It has also been reported that, in Auckland, thieves were stealing honey products off the shelves of pharmacies and supermarkets. Mr Macmillan went on to say, “In relation to beehives and bees, definitely the Northland area. And I put that down to the large concentration of manuka growing in those areas. Hawkes Bay is being targeted, around the Whanganui Central Districts areas is also being targeted.”
When asked for hive protection measures, Alasdair Macmillan said anyone with beehives should take precautions that could include fencing off hives and installing CCTV cameras. He also suggested reporting any suspicious behaviour to police.
In march 2017, the Telegraph reported that New Zealand’s bees were being stolen and traded by organised crime syndicates seeking to profit from skyrocketing honey prices, police and beekeepers said on Tuesday, proving that bees make money.
Laurence Burkin, apiarist manager at The True Honey Co and a victim of honey crime told Reuters, “It doesn’t matter if it’s beekeeping or meth, this is just the new gold rush.”
The crimes are coming off the back of the booming honey trade in New Zealand. Honey exports have jumped 35% to NZ$315M with a third of that being sold to China and Hong Kong. Certain types, like Manuka Honey (prized for its antibacterial properties) can sell for as much as NZ$148 (£83.48) per kg with hives going for as much as NZ$2,000 (£1,128).
In March 2017, it was reported by the Radio New Zealand that two men were set to appear in a Northland court on beehive-theft related charges. One of the men had allegedly stole more than $50,000 worth of beehives.
What are your views?
What do you think of honey crime? What ways would you suggest to protect hives? Let us your views and what you think about the topic in the comment box below.