Honey is liquid gold -- and thieves in New Zealand want to tap into the industry’s skyrocketing prices.
Organized crime syndicates in that country are stealing and trading lucrative beehives, Reuters reports. Hive heists have risen with at least 400 bee or honey thefts in the final 6 months of 2016.
“There is nothing to suggest at this stage that beehive-honey theft is directly linked with a particular gang, but we do believe this offending is organized and likely being carried out by groups,” senor Sgt. Alasdair MacMillan, Coordinator of Community Policing for New Zealand Police.
The Ministry of Primary Industry reported that honey exports in New Zealand have jumped 35 percent to $218 million since last June, Reuters notes. Prices for native Manuka honey have tripled in value since 2012.
Apiarists, or beekeepers, said these soaring prices have been driving the bee-related crimes.
“It’s rife. Honey is overpriced, mate, it’s ludicrous. There’s easy money being made if you buy and sell hives,” said Bruce Robertson, managing director of Haines Apiaries in Kaitaia, about 192 miles north of Auckland.
He said he spent nearly $3,500 boosting security after finding that one or two of his 3,000 hives were being stolen weekly.
Government figures show that Manuka honey, which is prized for its antibacterial properties as well as taste, could fetch upwards of $50 per pound. The hive is worth as much as $1,380.
Police said they've been working with Apiculture New Zealand and the Ministry of Primary Industry to improve investigative techniques and to develop a database for tacking hive movements.
"We were actually ignorant about bees because you think, bees, they're just hanging around the garden," Mr MacMillan told television network TVNZ, according to Reuters.
"I have learned so much over the last 18 months, just the makeup of hives themselves is amazing."