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WELLINGTON - New Zealand's bees are being stolen and traded by organised crime syndicates seeking to profit from skyrocketing honey prices, police and beekeepers said on Tuesday, proving that bees make money.
"It doesn't matter if it's beekeeping or meth, this is just the new gold rush," Laurence Burkin, apiarist manager at The True Honey Co in Dannevirke, north of Wellington, and himself a victim of hive thefts, told Reuters by phone.
Hive heists were rising, with 400 bee or honey thefts reported in the six months to January, police said in an emailed statement, without providing figures for previous periods.
"There is nothing to suggest at this stage that beehive/honey theft is directly linked with a particular gang, but we do believe this offending is organised and likely being carried out by groups," said Senior Sergeant Alasdair MacMillan, Coordinator of Community Policing at New Zealand Police.
The crime spree comes while New Zealand's honey industry is booming.
Exports jumped 35 percent to NZ$315 million ($219 million) in the year
to June according to the Ministry of Primary Industry, with about a
third of that sold to China and Hong Kong.