A ‘gold rush’ is haunting New Zealand’s beekeepers, as beehive and honey thefts are growing, leading local police officers to believe a network of organized crime is seeking to profit from escalating honey prices. It appears the search for the liquid gold is on a quest to prevail, since prices for native Manuka honey have tripled in value since 2012.
The number of reports of stolen hives rose to about 400 in the last six 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 organised and likely being carried out by groups" says senior sergeant Alasdair MacMillan, Coordinator of Community Policing at New Zealand Police. Apiarists who responded to the crime spree said that soaring prices for native Manuka honey are the driving force behind the hive thefts.
Since last June, honey exports in New Zealand have risen by 35 percent up to $218 million, according to a report by Reuters. In addition, government figures show that Manuka honey, famous for its antibacterial properties as well as taste, could fetch as much as $50 per pound, making the hives worth around $1,380 a piece.
The police are now working on a database to map out hive thefts around the country in an attempt to govern the criminal wave and safeguard the wellbeing of the bees and their keepers. Until then, apiarists are advised to up their security by installing cameras and GPS trackers in and around their hives. This leads us to wonder, are beehives the new banks?