Nearly 100 beehives stolen from California orchard; beekeeper tells thief to buzz off

Local law enforcement is investigating the theft of nearly 100 beehives -- each reportedly holding more than 50,000 bees -- from an orchard in northern California.

Beekeeper and owner of Pottsy's Pollination, Mike Potts, said that the hives, which are used to pollinate almond orchards just south of Yuba City, were discovered missing on Jan. 17.

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Potts estimated that the heist of the 92 hives -- approximately a third of his operation -- would cost him about $44,000 in revenue.

"The hives were kind of moved around, the pallets in the background were all, basically they were set down and they just pulled all the hives off the pallets," he explained.

He told KCRA-TV it was "frustrating" for him.

"It's hard enough keeping the bees alive without someone stealing them," Potts said.

Potts, who is actually based in Oregon, suspects that another beekeeper who lost bees could be potentially responsible for this theft, as well as previous thefts. Given the weight of the hives and the boxes that house them, he believes the perpetrator may have used a flatbed truck to drive them away.

The boxes are light gray and marked with an "MP" logo.

"I would like to catch them and I think a lot of the beekeepers out here, they're looking for them too," he told KCRA. "This affects the farmer, too, because there's going to be a shortage of bees. Luckily, I have enough to cover what I did, or what we lost. But, it affects the farmer and it affects the farmers all the way in Oregon and Washington because of the loss of the bees."

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Orchard operators hire beekeepers such as Potts -- who has 15 years of experience -- to provide bees that pollinate their plants.

According to the Los Angeles Times, it takes about a year for a hive to grow at full capacity and, as bees face external threats from mite infestation, beekeepers must constantly adapt to changes.

"If you're a good beekeeper, you do that," Potts said. "If you're not, you go steal them."

The Sutter County Sheriff's Office is investigating.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.