Beehives Are Now Black Market Gold In California

"It was like a chop shop for bees," is an actual line from a Guardian expose about the seedy world of honeybee hive theft. Images immediately spring to mind of hives stripped bare with their transmissions and engine blocks fully exposed as a bunch of Vin Diesel looking crooks exchange stories about their most painful stings. It's a criminal mashup that's sounds like the plot of the next Ant-Man movie if Marvel really wants it to suck.

You know you’re buying stolen bees when the serial number under the thorax has been scratched out. Wikimedia Commons/DellexYou know you’re buying stolen bees when the serial number under the thorax has been scratched out.

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California's Central Valley is where a quarter of the U.S.'s produce is grown. All of that farmland needs honeybee hives to pollinate crops, especially the ever-expanding almond industry. Beekeepers are having a hard time keeping their hives alive enough as it is, with toxic pesticides and diseases causing up to 40% of colonies to collapse every winter. Honeybee hives were already a hot yet scarce commodity as it was, and now they're a lucrative target for organized crime syndicates who resell them on the black (and yellow) market to other farmers. After all, pollination is a much more important bee function than the production of honey, and it's a lot easier. You just sit the hive down and let the bees have sex with flowers whereas with honey production farmers have to squeeze that delicious gooey gold from each bee's anal glands by hand.

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It's so bad that some police officers in California are being hastily converted into specialized bee cops tasked with investigating bee crime and nabbing bee snatchers. So if you've recently been a victim of hive theft, never fear, for in fields all across Central California there are jaded alcoholic detectives with no prior bee experience brushing up on their bee knowledge with an article titled "101 Fun Bee Facts" from a children's educational website before approaching a victim of hive theft. They'll put one hand on their shoulder, look them in the eye and say, "I promise we will go to any length to find your stolen hives, just as the humble bee flies around 90,000 miles to make one pound of honey."

Luis can be found on Twitter and Facebook. Check out his regular contributions to Macaulay Culkin's BunnyEars.com and his "Meditation Minute" segments on the Bunny Ears podcast. And now you can listen to the first episode on Youtube!


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