Wairarapa beekeepers are counting the cost of stolen and poisoned beehives after a series of targeted attacks in recent months - thought to be by one of their own.
The incidents, with thousands of bees dying, will have a devastating effect on next season's production.
Kintail Honey, Priestley Reid Ltd and Kiwi Bee Wairarapa have all had thefts in the last six to eight weeks.
Watson and Son had several hundred poisoned over the new year, and all incidents have been reported to police.
Operations manager Shane Baker, speaking on behalf of the beekeepers, said the thieves must be experienced beekeepers.
"Bees are something you don't muck around with."
He said it was likely to be somebody in the area supplying them to outside of the area or selling them online.
Mr Baker was confident it nothing to do with existing Wairarapa beekeepers.
"We work co-operatively and do not interfere with each other's operations," he said.
Although the company has not had any thefts, Mr Baker said it was only a matter of time.
"At the end of the day we're going to be next on that list," he said.
Between 20 to 60 hives were stolen on each occasion from areas such as Waingawa, Carterton and Mauriceville.
"They're taking hives from so close to town," he said.
Watson and Son's poisoned hives were sent away for testing and confirmed that it was a case of deliberate destruction, not accidental poisoning.
The hives are worth hundreds of dollars each.
Mr Baker said the effect on small businesses was phenomenal, and the missing hives would almost make it impossible to try and grow their hives for the next season.
"Most beekeepers can't just go and get new hives to replace the lost ones," he said.
"They're not readily available even if you have the money to buy them."
Mr Baker said the hives have registration numbers but unless they are branded into the wood, they can easily be sanded off and painted over.
Watson and Son have a policy of branding all their gear including the frames in the boxes.
Mr Baker hoped speaking out would help stop the thefts or at least make people more aware of what was happening.
He encouraged landowners to note the registration numbers on vehicles they see on their properties.
National Beekeeping Association chief executive Daniel Paul said the thefts were definitely a concern for the industry.
Federated Farmers Bees Industry Group chairman John Hartnell was aware of isolated cases of theft in the South Island recently. Hives with honey can be worth up to $1000 each.
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