Thieves stole $14,000 worth of beehives in what a local business owner says was a targeted attack to get their hands on the increasingly valuable manuka honey.

The True Honey Co apiarist manager Laurence Burkin found 19 of his hives missing from one of his sites in Central Hawke's Bay on Sunday. The company specialise in manuka honey extraction and production.

Mr Burkin said it was a "hell of a blow" to his dedicated beekeepers. "Our beekeepers work very hard to care for our bees and to have this happen is devastating."

He believed the hives were targeted by people who knew what they were doing and what they wanted.


"The people that took the hives have an understanding of beekeeping due to the nature of the hives they selected," Mr Burkin said.

The people responsible would have needed a suitable vehicle and equipment to take the hives.

Manuka honey has become a valuable commodity, selling for about $30/kg last season and according to Dr Peter Molan, the pioneer of Manuka honey research, the industry will be worth $1 billion in 2025.

Due to the recent "manuka boom" beekeepers are on the rise, both professionally and recreationally. "With any business there are always those who choose to operate on the other side of the law," Mr Burkin said.

"It was inevitable this was going to happen, it wasn't a case of if, but when."

He wanted to encourage other beekeepers and land owners to be more vigilant about foreign vehicles on properties.

"Others need to be aware, it has been happening around the country and now it's here in Hawke's Bay."

Mr Burkin said the only way to curb the trend was to take notice of "comings and goings" and to report any suspicious behaviour or people.


He is offering a $1000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of the people responsible.

Deanna Corbett from the Hawke's Bay branch of the National Beekeepers Association said 19 hives was not an easy amount to steal so the thieves were no doubt prepared and knowledgeable.

She was disappointed to learn that criminal activity had now arrived in the Bay. "When your livelihood is sitting in someone's paddock and you're not there to see what's happening its pretty scary," Ms Corbett said.

Last month in Te Awamutu Kiwi Bee Waikato was stripped of 50 hives worth approximately $20,000.

In June eight bee hives, worth $500 each, taken from Huntly and in April, 20 bee hives, worth about $6000 were taken from Maromaku area in Northland.

Liquid gold

* Manuka honey is one of the most famous honeys in the world. It is a monofloral honey produced in New Zealand and Australia from the nectar of the manuka tree.
* Manuka honey has a strong flavour, which has been characterised as, earthy, oily, herbaceous, and florid, rich and complex.
* It is described by the New Zealand honey industry as having a damp earth, heather, aromatic aroma and a mineral, slightly bitter flavour.
* The dark-coloured honey has high antioxidant properties and now well-known anti-bacterial healing powers.

Source: Honey Centre NZ