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New State Law Imposes Heavy Fines For Beehive Theft

A bee pollinating a flower.
Jason Leung

A new law goes into effect October 1st which will create stricter penalties for stealing beehives, that’s good news for Florida farmers experiencing decreased profits and honey bee die-offs.

Tony Hogg is the former president of the Florida State Beekeepers Association. He says commercial beekeepers are in a tough spot – increasing bee deaths and stolen hives mean declining profit. Hogg says beekeepers may eventually be unable to compete with overseas honey competitors and he calls the die-offs and thefts a ”constant threat” to Florida bees.

“You know, anything that can, you know, give us some tools in our tool kit to try to discourage, or prevent, or punish theft is a good thing”, Hoggs says.

Florida bees are shipped nationwide to pollinate important crops like California almonds, and Hogg says as demand rises the incidents of beehive theft are rising to match. He hopes a new state law will curb the losses.

"But again, until we see some effective enforcement and some positive results, it’s just another law in the books”, Hogg says.

The new law doubles the fine to $10,000 for felony theft of a commercial animal, and includes cattle rustling in addition to beehive theft.

Beekeepers across Florida are seeing significant honey bee losses and hive thefts this year, which may cause prices of honey and other crops to rise in the future. This year, Hogg expects a 60 percent honey bee colony loss and he says other beekeepers are experiencing similar declines. Researchers and beekeepers aren’t sure what is causing honey bee die-offs 

"It’s pesticides, it’s nutrition, it’s climate, it’s a lack of forage, a loss of forage. It’s been any number of things but you know, we just, we really need to find something to do to turn this industry around", Hoggs says.

Hogg hopes researchers at the University of Florida will be able to find out what’s causing honey bee decline and reverse it. According to UF, Florida is the nation’s 3rd top honey producer.

Eleanor Clark is a recent graduate from Florida State University with degrees in International Affairs and Creative Writing. Before interning at WFSU, she spent time in New York City as the Civic Engagement Coordinator for Columbia University’s high school program. Some of Eleanor’s favorite things are watching the Great British Bake Off, eating soup dumplings, and spending time with her dog, Cooper. Follow her on Twitter: @Nell_Clark_