British Columbia

Hives containing 500,000 bees stolen in B.C.

Police in Abbotsford, B.C., are searching for about half a million bees and an estimated 3,600 kilograms of honey that were apparently stolen sometime earlier this month.

Large-scale bee colony thefts also reported in Alberta, New Zealand

Beehive heist

11 years ago
Duration 1:50
It's believed a beekeeper stole about 500,000 bees from an Abbotsford, B.C., beekeeper

A B.C. beekeeper is out $100,000 after half a million bees and an estimated 3,600 kilograms of honey were apparently stolen sometime earlier this month.

According to police in the Fraser Valley community of Abbotsford, when the beekeeper went to inspect his bees on the 27600 block of 0 Avenue last Thursday, he found 100 hive frames were missing.

The hives were located away from the road, and would not have been easily seen by passersby; however, since it would have required a truck to remove the 100 hive frames, police believe someone may have observed the theft in progress sometime between July 7 and 26.

John Gibeau, president of Surrey's Honeybee Centre and a lifelong beekeeper, said that a heist of 48 colonies would be a complicated process, and whoever did it must be an industry insider.

"It's not something a layperson could do. You would have to be a bee keeper. A semi-experienced bee keeper," he said.

Every year, a small number of honey bee thefts is reported in B.C., but police said this incident is on a much larger scale, and is much more sophisticated.

Similar large-scale bee colony thefts have also been reported this year in Alberta and in New Zealand.

Gibeau thinks the culprit is likely a small-time contract pollinator, who would rent bees to farmers to help pollinate their crops.

"Beekeeping has been tough for the last 10, 15 years. We have a rural mite problem; we are attacked with pesticides; the changing weather conditions. It's a difficult job. It's difficult to make money at it," he said.

Abbotford police say about half a million bees were stolen along with 3,600 kilograms of honey. (iStockphoto/Peter Miller)

Gibeau said that with many bee populations strained or failing, the person or persons responsible may have needed bees in order to fulfil obligations he had to farmers.

"[The] first part of a successful farmer is to keep your bees alive. Secondly, you have to produce honey. But if he can't keep his bees alive, he shouldn't be stealing them," Gibeau said. "Try another business."

Anyone with information about the theft is being asked to contact the Abbotsford Police Department at 604-859-5225 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

With files from the CBC's Renee Filippone