There have been many reports about how the world’s bee population is shrinking, that there has now been a reported increase in the number of beehive thefts of the past decade, especially around the rich agricultural fields of California’s central valley. However, despite the problems to beekeepers, as well as the environment, these bee rustlers are proving difficult to catch.

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According to a report in Modern Farmer, since Colony Collapse Disorder began decimating hives by the thousands across the United States in 2006, the amount of hive thefts have increased. and commercial beekeepers are stepping up to stop the criminals.

Commercial beekeeper Mark Tauzer had hundreds of hives stolen from a field he was hoping to pollinate. He later found the stolen hives scattered along the road, leading to a broken-down bee yard run by criminal Viktor Zhdamirov.

Related: 5,000 Honey Bees to be Equipped with Sensors to Study Colony Decline

The destruction caused to the hives was particularly worrying for Tauzer. “Most people go into beekeeping because they love bees,“ Tauzer explained. “No matter how fierce competition may get among beekeepers, it’s understood, you don’t hurt the bees.”

One of the problems that has arisen from bee thefts is that stolen hives can’t be impounded like a car can. Many law enforcement officers also don’t know how to handle bee hives, so often they must be returned to their owners as soon as possible. With awareness growing, as well as the number of cases, law enforcement officers are now clued in to how important the bees can be to California’s economy.

Via Grist

Images Eilidh B and Kiron Krishnankutty