The remainder of Debbie Keil’s beehives at the site near Mt Bruce. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

BECKIE WILSON

beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

A Wairarapa beekeeper is determined to find who stole and damaged more than 30 of her beehives last week.

Sixteen double hives — each worth about $700 – were stolen and 16 damaged — in total costing the family business more than $14,000, not counting future production losses.

The hives were not insured.

Mountain Gold Manuka owner Deborah Keil had more than 40 hives in operation on a neighbouring property at Mt Bruce near Eketahuna for several years.

She had been “always nervous” that the hives were a tempting target for thieves because of their proximity to the highway even though they could not be seen from the road.

An employee discovered the 16 hives were missing last Monday.

She believes the hives were stolen about two days before they discovered the theft.

It was not difficult to take hives — two people loading the 16 hives would need only about half an hour.

The damaged hives had been blocked off, she added.

“Blocking off” is typically done before moving hives to stop bees leaving.

“I think they blocked them off and intended to come back that night – which they didn’t,” she said.

“As far as I’m concerned, these people have an understanding of beekeeping — people who don’t have knowledge of beekeeping don’t steal beehives,” said Ms Keil who has been in beekeeping for about 20 years.

She found a passion for beekeeping after buying a 950-acre family farm at Mt Bruce.

A former policewoman in Wairarapa for 17 years, she recently started her own honey business after years of suppling honey to larger companies.

The theft was a real slap in the face after years of building her business from the ground up.

She took to Facebook to let the wider beekeeping community know about the theft, and to see if any locals had further information.

She did not want sympathy, she just wanted to find who stole the hives.

She will consider installing GPS monitors in the beehives, as well as camera surveillance.

“The police talked about GPS and video surveillance, and location of hives, but it was already stuff I know.

“I guess you have to get stung once before you go to all the extremes of video surveillance, GPS and insurance.”

Apiculture New Zealand (ApiNZ) chief executive Karin Kos said theft of beehives was becoming a problem within the industry with most happening in central North Island and Northland.

“It’s devastating for beekeepers – this is their livelihood and it is essentially theft of livestock,” she said.

Wairarapa Hobby Beekeepers Club president Todd Clarke said he had not heard of any local theft of hives within the club lately but said there had been several in the region in the past year.

Typically, the hives that were being stolen were in remote areas of Wairarapa, he said.

The club has a hive near Riverside cemetery which had been vandalised recently, he added.