Theft an increasing problem for Northland beekeepers
Manuka honey is proving so popular and so profitable that beekeepers are going extreme lengths to protect their beehives.
Dozens of hives have been stolen in Northland recently and many more have been poisoned.
Now two beekeepers are making a stand.
Bill Guest is one of them, and has been keeping bees for 80 years. His son Lindsay does most of the work now, and says that despite getting better returns than ever thieves have made it that much harder.
“When we went and checked there were hives kicked over and some missing,” he says.
Twenty hives were stolen and another dozen destroyed. He says it was most likely professionals using the proper gear.
“We just want our bees back really because that's our production loss for the year,” says Mr Guest.
A hive’s worth of top quality manuka honey can fetch upwards of $600, so the Guests have teamed up with another beekeeper who also lost hives to offer an $8000 reward.
Kevin Wallace of the Whangarei Bee Club says the number of stolen and damaged hives is increasing.
“It's definitely happening more often,” he says. “We would hope it’s not getting worse but that's not reflective of the reality.”
Mr Wallace says money has seen an influx of beekeepers into Northland.
“These guys are coming in and offering more remuneration so they trump the existing beekeeper and that will annoy an existing beekeeper rather quickly,” he says.
Beekeeper Charlie Dunn says he sees beekeeping as a way for local Maori to make the most of their land.
“We need to get together and own our own hives,” he says. “That will keep all this trouble out and those guys the outsiders who want manuka honey buy it off us, simple as that.”
No one has come forward with any information yet about the recent thefts and damage.
Police are investigating, but the patience of Northland beekeepers is wearing thin.