Electronic tracking devices and surveillance cameras could be a way of stemming beehive thefts in Northland, an industry spokesman says.

Another theft of 48 hives from Kaitaia has been reported. Police believe it is not a few individuals but potentially a criminal activity occurring on a much wider scale.

The escalation of beehive thefts in Northland has sparked a national operation between police and Apiculture NZ, who represents the beekeeping and honey products industry.

Apiculture NZ chief executive Daniel Paul said the thefts had escalated to the point that a co-ordinated and nationwide solution was necessary.


"This will involve working together to gather better intelligence about thefts and how stolen hives are processed, and to monitor hive movements more proactively," Mr Paul said.

"We also want to establish a central database to ensure that information about thefts and the people and organisations behind those thefts is shared more efficiently."

He said technology would be used in the future to track hives, which could include GPS devices, but it would come down to cost and the ability to maintain the devices on the hives.

Northland was a popular area for hives as there was plenty of manuka but they were often placed in remote locations which made them vulnerable to theft.

"All our major commercial members and even many non-commercial, hobbyist beekeepers are concerned about the growing trend of beehive thefts and we will be putting considerable effort into initiatives that will help beekeepers keep their hives safe," Mr Paul said.

Community policing Senior Sergeant Alasdair Macmillan said the thefts were costing apiarists millions of dollars a year and he hoped a co-ordinated response would prevent more beekeepers from becoming victims and improve intelligence on offenders.

"We do not believe this is just a few individuals but it is potentially criminal activity occurring on a much wider scale."

He said the public could help police to prevent the thefts, which were particularly common in Northland and the central North Island.

"It's common for these thieves to shift the hives in small utes or trailers in rural areas.

Even if people are not directly involved in the beehive industry, they can still help. If you see suspicious-looking vehicles carrying beehives, report it to police. If you can't call us immediately, then make a note of the registration number and description of the vehicle to report to us as soon as you can."

Last Wednesday 48 hives were reported stolen from a property south of Kaitaia. They were owned by Wellington-based company Watson & Son who had 200 hives stolen last month from Topuni Forest about 10km north of Wellsford.

The "nukes" - hives specifically for breeding - were in the pine forest for the winter and had an estimated value of $200,000.

Most legitimate shifting of hives occurs at dawn or dusk.