SELMA, Calif. (KFSN) --The almond bloom is creating a buzz in the valley and also attracting a swarm of thieves. Dozens of beehives have been stolen in Fresno County and it's hurting the industry.
At sunup and sundown, Ed Harmon is on bee patrol-- checking on his client's hives and keeping an eye out for thieves. Harmon said, "It might be an exercise in futility trying to do this but, but at least it's an attempt to slow them down."
He's already been hit once and lost 80 hives from an almond orchard in Selma. It happened sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning. "I almost had a heart attack," Harmon added, "just right in the pit of my stomach, it hit me-- this is terrible."
Harmon says he's heard of five heists in the valley in the last five days and three were reported to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. "The hive prices have risen so unfortunately, when the value increases we also see theft increase as well," said Lt. Ryan Hushaw.
In the bee business, Harmon is a middle man. He says the stolen bees were from out of state, insurance won't cover them and the beekeeper is out at least $16,000. "The owner is the one who takes it on the chin," Harmon added.
It also hurts the farmer, Bennie Gonsalves who needs the bees to pollinate the almond blooms. Fortunately, he found replacement bees which is tough to do because there's a shortage in California - something he believes is really driving people to steal. "It's not just somebody in a beat-up truck, it's somebody who has bees-- they probably lost bees and they're stealing somebody else's," Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves found big tire tracks in his orchard and evidence of a two-man crew which adds to his suspicions. Harmon says the thief is likely in the industry and is taking the bees to stay in business.