A man who stole more than $2000 worth of honey and bees from a Hawke's Bay honey company has been stung with a hefty sentence of community work.
Basil Martin Lawry, 64, stole brood (eggs, larvae and pupae), honey and bees from Arataki Honey and Kintail Honey from 2016 through to 2018.
He was sentenced at the Hastings District Court on Wednesday to 200 hours community work by Judge Geoff Rea and was also ordered to pay reparation of $2040.
Arataki Honey's John Walsh said he was relieved Lawry had been brought to account for the theft but was concerned that Arataki hives may have been infected with American foulbrood (AFB) - a highly infectious bee disease - through Lawry.
Lawry began keeping his own hives in 2015.
He would separate the frames inside the hives and place them inside a nucleus (a wooden box with a queen bee and five wooden frames inside).
If successful, a nucleus can be sold for $250-$350.
Lawry had also been grazing stock on orchards where Arataki Honey hives were located and knew their locations.
Each year in 2016, 2017 and 2018 during pollination time, he drove on to different properties carrying his own nucleus full of new wooden frames.
He used a crowbar to lever open the lid of the Arataki hives and stole four frames from each one.
He put them in his nucleus and replaced the missing frames with empty ones.
He continued this every spring and did the same thing to four Kintail Honey beehives, near Hastings.
Lawry also continued targeting Arataki Honey and drove to their hive locations on Longlands Rd, Orchard Rd and Elwood Rd.
His luck finally ran out in November last year when he went to farmland on Taihape Rd.
Little did he know he was being watched by a hive manager and fled when he was approached - dumping his equipment on the way.
The manager took a photo of Lawry's vehicle and shared it on social media. Lawry was later located by police.
He admitted that between 2016/17 his hives were suffering and he became obsessed with helping his own bees regenerate.
Walsh said he was pleased with the length of Lawry's community service sentence.
"Hopefully this sends a message to those who feel that way inclined to repeat this kind of behaviour."
Walsh said the rural community was becoming more vigilant when it came to bee and honey thefts, especially via social media.