Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Beekeepers are setting up sting operations to find stolen hives

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK, I'm aware of car rentals, vacation rentals, Airbnb rentals. Turns out that in California's Central Valley, there is a business in beehive rentals. Bees are essential in helping so many things grow, and during this time of year in the state's almond orchards, things are abuzz.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEES BUZZING)

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The state's entire almond yield is completely dependent on honeybees.

CLAIRE TAUZER: Bees are actually brought in by farmers and growers to pollinate many different types of crops, so there would not be a nut that would come off of the tree without honeybees.

INSKEEP: Claire Tauzer helps run her family's bee business, which is called Tauzer Apiary (ph). It provides bees from Bakersfield to Chico, and this is one of their busiest times.

MARTIN: They rent out boxes of bees. Each one can have as many as 80,000 bees inside for a couple hundred dollars each, and the value explains why the hives have been disappearing. Tauzer says theft has always been a problem, but lately it's gotten worse.

TAUZER: We had 384 hives stolen this year.

INSKEEP: Tauzer says the thieves are trying to hijack the stolen bees to make money during these short and lucrative pollination events. But beekeepers are not helpless. They can set up a sort of sting operation.

TAUZER: There are a lot of preventative measures we do to prevent theft. I mean, we use cheap GPS trackers. We use cameras. There's even this invisible ink that you can put on beehives that you can identify later.

INSKEEP: Oh, my gosh. It's like marking your money with - this is incredible. Anyway, Tauzer Apiary has been able to recover and restore most of its missing hives, which are worth about $100,000 during a pollination season.

(SOUNDBITE OF WYNTON MARSALIS'S "THE FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLEBEES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.