Police have seized a truckload of stolen bee hives worth as much as $45,000 as the thieves were trying to spirit them out of Northland.

The three-tonne truck was stopped as it was heading south near Kawakawa about 6.30am on Thursday in a joint operation by Kaitaia and Tauranga police.

Officers found just over 50 hives on board along with empty beehive boxes and other equipment. Two Tauranga men, aged 40 and 46, were arrested.

The 46-year-old appeared in the Whangarei District Court yesterday charged with burglary and five counts of receiving stolen property.

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The other man has been bailed and is due in court in Tauranga next week.

Detective Sergeant Mark Dalzell said the searching and seizing aspects of the operation posed an interesting challenge, but police managed to avoid bee stings.

"The bees were very selective. The good guys didn't get stung."

It is thought the hives were taken from a property in Taipa, Doubtless Bay.

The Kawakawa seizure was part of a wider operation in the Bay of Plenty in which police have so far recovered up to $200,000 worth of stolen beehives and beekeeping equipment following a spate of thefts.

Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner, of Tauranga police, said the thefts were a huge loss for the honey industry.

"It's a big economic hit for the beekeepers so we are pleased to be able to find these hives," he said.

Public assistance had been key to tracking down the offenders, he said.

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