A police officer whose father keeps bees knew something was amiss when he came across some broken hives on the side of the road.
Hawke's Bay Crime prevention supervisor Andrew Graham was driving down Korokipo Rd on State Highway 1 when he noticed the broken hives scattered along the side of the road.
"My father has kept bees for years so I knew what they were straight away," Mr Graham said.
"I stopped, looked around to make sure there was nobody about, collected everything and put it in the boot of my car.
"Because beekeepers have to be registered, the boxes had a registration number on them and we were soon able to identify where they came from."
Neighbours told Mr Graham they had seen a swarm of bees hanging around but they dispersed in the early evening.
The beehives belonged to Beagle's Bees and were part of 38 stolen from the Gimblett Gravels area between Tuesday afternoon and early Wednesday morning.
This is the second time Beagle's Bees has been hit in the past month, with 56 hives stolen.
Owner Beagle Rogers, who has been in the industry for 16 years, is gutted.
"When the first lot went missing I was dumbfounded when I went to the site to feed them and everything was gone," Mr Rogers said.
"It's like a farmer turning up at his paddock to find all his stock gone.
"The bees from the hives that were found on the side of the road would have all died from the cold ... frozen to death.
"Whoever has done this must know something about beekeeping.
"They know when to take the hives - either at night when the bees are all in the hive or during winter on a cold day when the bees don't venture out.
"The worst part is that they have taken my breeding stock for next year."
Mr Rogers said they would most likely turn up on Trade Me and he implored would-be buyers to ask sellers for a registration number.
The secretary of the Hawke's Bay Hub of Apiculture New Zealand, Deanna Corbett, said beekeepers did not talk about thefts of hives because they did not want to invite more attention to the hives.
"That's why they don't like to talk about cost of a hive in case it encourages more thieves," she added.
"It's quite common in the winter for beekeepers not to visit their hives for a couple of months.
"The hives themselves are anonymous white boxes or perhaps grey - they could be painted any colour.
"Beekeepers feel pretty vulnerable - their livelihood sits out in someone's paddock.
"Because this theft has come to our attention in such a short time-frame we are really hoping that someone will remember seeing a vehicle with beehives on it."
Kintail Honey owner James Ward said he had hives stolen every year.
"Manuka standards have to change. That's what driving these thefts.
"The price of a hive has tripled in the past three years," Mr Ward said.
Mr Graham said the police were asking the public to report any suspicious vehicles carrying beehives.
"It's unusual to move beehives at this time of the year," he said.
"So if you see any vehicle loaded with hives please contact us and if you are buying hives, make sure they are from a registered beekeeper," he added.
-If you have any information about the beehive thefts, please phone Hastings Police on 831 0700, or the anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.