Canadian Thieves Somehow Stole Half a Million Angry Honey Bees

Between climate change, toxic pesticides, and even cell phones, there is no shortage of threats to honey bee populations. But now, beekeepers also have to be on the lookout for thieves.

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Aug 31 2015, 3:00pm

Photo via Flickr user Evan Bench

Beekeepers don't have it easy.

Between climate change, toxic pesticides, and even cell phones, there is no shortage of threats to their hard-working, honey-producing livestock. And as if the dramatic collapse of bee populations around the world wasn't enough, they also have to be on the lookout for thieves.

That's what beekeeper Kevin Nixon found out last week, when he arrived to find an estimated 600,000 bees had been stolen from his honey farm in Innisfail, Alberta.

"Somebody has to have the knowledge or experience to go ahead and lift, by hand, 12 hives on to a truck and walk away with them. They are certainly going to be agitated when you handle them, and they are heavy—there's honey on them," Nixon told the CBC.

READ MORE: How to Steal Honey from Angry African Bees

Nixon, who is also Chair of the Canadian Honey Council, says that the total value of the heist, between the bees, the honey, and the farming equipment is about $10,000—a lot of money for someone working in an industry plagued by huge population losses and increasingly brutal winters.

While the loss of 12 hives would put a dent in any honey farming operation, it's a fraction of the 100 hives and 3,500 kilos (7,700 pounds) of honey which were stolen three years ago in a $100,000 bee heist in Abbotsford, British Columbia, an area plagued by livestock theft.

The boldness of that crime led police to quip that the thieves were "probably not looking to, pardon the pun, liquidate the honey immediately." That case, like so many Canadian food heists, remains unsolved.

READ MORE: Thieves Have Stolen $15K of Prince Edward Island Oysters

Earlier this month, over $15,000 worth of oysters were stolen from a Prince Edward Island oyster farm. Since the bivalves, which had just been graded, were still underwater, the heist would have required not only a boat but a good understanding of the river and a truck waiting nearby to transport them by land. The culprits, and the oysters, have yet to be found.

But the most brazen food heist to go down in Canada in recent years has to be the great maple syrup heist of 2012, where over $30 million dollars worth of liquid gold was stolen from the world's Global Strategic Reserve of maple syrup in St-Louis-de-Blandford, Quebec. Most of the maple contraband ended up in the US and 26 individuals were eventually arrested but, once again, most of the loot was never recovered.

That doesn't bode well for Kevin Dixon's stolen bees, and he knows it, which is why he has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of the bees.

Financial considerations aside, there is the more practical issue of how one handles 10,000 oysters, 3.4 millions liters of maple syrup, or over half a million—presumably angry—honey bees.

The practical knowledge required to pull off these kinds of heists suggests that most of them are inside jobs, or at the very least hashed out by people within those industries or competing businesses. With honey bees dying in droves, for reasons which still aren't entirely clear, it's hardly a surprise that bee heists are a thing. The money, and the honey, make it too hard to resist.