Koehnen was angry about the theft, but also grateful that more of his hives hadn’t been stolen. “A while back, we got hit by thieves who stole 240 hives,” he says. “That was a bad year.” Between 2014 and 2017, California experienced a surge in bee-related crimes. Hundreds of hives were being swiped at a time in different locations. Officers thought someone had to be coordinating the heists.
In 2017, not too long after that year’s almond bloom, detectives in Fresno received a report about a vacant lot on the outskirts of the city littered with bee boxes of different colors, shapes, and brands. The officers investigated and arrested a man at the scene. After following additional leads in the case, they tracked down more than 2,500 stolen beehives worth an estimated $875,000. Some of the recovered equipment was labeled with Koehnen’s brand. “We got about 80 of our hives back,” he says.