Talk about your daring robberies. Unidentified thieves backed up their pickup truck to Haven Restaurant in Houston before dawn on March 10 and took off with a 500-pound beehive.
Co-owner and executive chef Randy Evans said the hive, which was worth about $1,000, held as many as 5,000 bees. He raises them to use their honey in his restaurant. Evans also grows his own fruit and vegetables in the small plot behind his establishment.
In addition to providing honey, the bees help pollinate the restaurant's lemon trees.
Surveillance cameras caught the pre-dawn robbery on tape, showing a truck with a camper cover back up to the hive with its lights off, remove the hive from its protective crate, and take off. The crime took less than a minute.
The hive-nappers seemed to know what they were doing, choosing a cold, rainy day when the bees would be less active and less inclined to fight back. "You can steal [a hive] without knowing what you're doing, but you'd be in for some problems," local beekeeper John Berry told local ABC affilate KTRK.
Jennifer Scott of the Harris County Beekeepers Association told TV station KHOU that bee thefts are on the rise. "Bees are in short supply right now," she said. "Beekeepers are very careful now where they keep their bees, because bees are stolen." Scott said that many beekeepers are now branding their hives and other equipment to protect themselves from what the industry now calls "bee-rustlers."
Whether they were looking for the bees or their honey, Evans had a message for the thieves: "Bring the bees back. Keep the honey."
A single colony of bees can produce 200 pounds of honey a year, potentially worth thousands of dollars. A bee theft in Florida in July 2011 was blamed on "industry insiders." The problem is even worse in the U.K., where organized criminals have been targeting beekeepers for the past few years as native honeybee populations have declined.
MSNBC has more on the hive theft from Houston affiliate KPRC: