New Zealand manuka honey has been targeted in a series of brazen thefts from Sydney chemists, beauty salons and supermarkets.

The bizarre new crime wave has seen thieves working like busy bees aiming to swipe the expensive manuka honey, selling for A$80 ($86) per jar, and subsequently dispensing it on the black market.

Manuka honey is said to have powerful anti-bacterial qualities and some anecdotal reports from stores across Sydney revealed small businesses are losing thousands of dollars worth of stock, according to The Daily Telegraph.

David Gates, Acting Crime Manager for Sydney City Police Detective Inspector, said there was no doubt stores were being stung for manuka honey by individual gangs.


"We have seen a spike in the past year of honey theft," he said.

"There have been thefts in Chippendale, Campsie, Burwood and here in the city that we know of, and in all cases the common denominator is that the honey is manuka."

In fact, recently 30 manuka jars of honey were swiped from a beauty salon in Haymarket, and another city store was robbed of 20 tubs - worth A$75 ($80) each.

Gangs are using technique of blocking staff's view with an umbrella while an accomplice steals the expensive honey.
Gangs are using technique of blocking staff's view with an umbrella while an accomplice steals the expensive honey.

One gang is using a specific 'sting' technique where one bandit holds up an umbrella to obstruct the staffs view, while a lurking bandit collects and dispenses with the manuka honey.

One such character to use the technique was 33-year-old Byron Carey who was arrested for the theft of hundreds of jars of honey at a number of stores after CCTV footage caught him brazenly steeling honey with a grin on his face.

He was found guilty of stealing but is on the run after he disappeared when he was supposed to be sentenced at Downing Centre Court in September.

The word-of-mouth reports of manuka honey taken by sticky bandits leads Inspector Gates to believe criminals are taking advantage of a demand on the black market for the produce.

"It's more likely they are individuals being opportunistic who have seen there is a market for something that is popular and expensive," he said.

"We saw a similar thing with vitamins a while back being stolen regularly, and even rump steak.

"In some of these cases the retailer has lost thousands of dollars worth of stock, which can really hurt a small business."

Manuka honey is made by bees that feed on the manuka bush or jellybush tree in New Zealand and Australia respectively.