Bees are big business, especially as their numbers are dwindling and their colonies are threatened by various toxins. And since a lot of farmers around California, especially almond growers, now pay big bucks to rent bees for the pollination season, we have a new brand of crime to report on: bee theft. One enterprising Sacramento area man, 51-year-old Pavel Tveretinov, was arrested in Fresno Tuesday on suspicion of stealing an estimated $875,000 worth of other peoples' bees, which he was then renting out for profit, as CBS 5 reports.
According to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, the investigation into the pilfered bees began a couple weeks ago, on April 28, when detective arrived at an orchard to find 100 hives that were allegedly stolen from a beekeeper in Madera County. They promptly arrested a man in a protective suit who was tending to the bees, who was identified as Tveretinov.
Investigators then followed Tveretinov's trail elsewhere in Fresno County where they found thousands of other hives, 2,500 in all, and they believe he's been stealing hives and renting them for his own profit for as long as three years, and his crimes spanned at least six California counties. One Montana beekeeper said that all of her bees had been stolen, telling CBS affiliate KGPE, "Every colony of bees that I owned except for one. So I basically at the age of 56 had to start over from scratch. They totally put me out of business."
Now some beekeepers are having to hire private security to watch over their precious pollinators. And a special Fresno County prosecutor assigned to agriculture cases will be taking on the case.
Tveretinov is currently free on $10,000 bail, and its unclear whether all the bees are making their way back to their rightful owners.