JOANNA GRIFFITHS/FAIRFAX NZ
Organised crime has muscled in on the illegal honey trade but high-tech security devices left them stung.
Western Bay of Police located thousands of beehives, worth up to $1000 each, in a raid of a Waipapa Block Road address in the Bay of Plenty region on September 5.
The raid revealed a honey hive ‘chop shop’ where thousands of hives being rigged for sale as well as a cache of ammunition and firearms.
*Man caught with $40,000 of allegedly stolen honey
*Police recover stolen beehives in Bay of Plenty
*Organised gangs believed to be behind bee thefts
Unknown to the thieves every move they made with their stolen cargo was being watched from satellite.
Hamilton-based company MyApiary has outfitted outfitting beekeepers with their Hive Tracker system. The device sends updates on hive movements directly to beekeepers.
“The system will send an alert whenever it is disturbed and track it’s movement wherever it is moved,” co-founder Carl Vink said.
“The beekeeper was able to see exactly where the hives went, the route they took, right from when they stole the hives to a specific property in the Bay of Plenty region.
“It’s good to know the system works and hopefully this goes some way to preventing beekeepers being targeted by thieves.”
Apiculture New Zealand chief executive Karin Kos said thefts from beekeepers is an ongoing problem for beekeepers.
“The cost is in the millions,” she said. “Police have told us organised crime groups are involved and this is resulting in police stepping up to the mark. It is a problem New Zealand wide but particularly in the Bay of Plenty and Northland.
“Security measures are now being implemented including pressure plates and increased CCTV around hives in a bid to assist police.”
Vink said the timing of the burglaries also indicates a knowledge of beekeeping as the latest thefts were not a ‘smash and grab’ operation.
“There wouldn’t be a lot of high value honey in those hives,” he said. “At this time the hive is getting ready for spring. This indicates the people doing this are not looking for the product to eat they are looking for the asset of a strong colony.”
Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner confirmed the satellite tracking data was an integral part of their investigation.
“It is certainly a good crime tracking tool,” he said.
“Hopefully it makes people think twice before stealing things.”
“It is clear these thieves had a low skill level in regards to hive maintenance and hygiene. Only 40 hives were alive when we searched the property.”
Turner said hive theft is a major problem in the region and he says it is likely the hives would have been onsold, knowingly or unknowingly to “less reputable” operators.
“It’s unfortunate these criminals can make a living from this,” he said.
Enquiries are ongoing in relation to the thefts, and Police would like to hear from anyone who may have information that could assist them with their investigation on 0800 555 111.