WATKINSVILLE, Ga. — Thieves went for the gold in Oconee County early this week and it’s the kind that’s sweet and sticky.
About 15 pounds of honey was stolen from honey bee hives owned by the University of Georgia’s Horticulture Farm on Hog Mountain Farm, according to an Oconee County Sheriff’s report.
The hives were placed at an undisclosed location south of Watkinsville and at least three times the hives have been looted in recent days.
The sheriff’s office and the University of Georgia Police Department are investigating the thefts, Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said Wednesday.
“It’s a commodity that fluctuates in price and now the price is kind of high,” Berry said.“We’ll do our best to find out who stole it.”
Thieves apparently drove to the location because a steel cable across a dirt road leading to the site had been taken down, said Nicholas Weaver, a staff member of the horticulture farm.
The hives are part of a $1.2 million research project partnered with Emory University to study the impact of the Varroa mite. The Varroa mite is a parasitic pest that is causing severe damage to the honey bee industry.
“The honey is not as big a deal as the data they are messing up,” Weaver said.
In addition, Weaver said the bees themselves need the honey for food to get through the Winter.
“If they don’t have enough food in the hives, we could lose all the information we’re getting off the hive,” he said.
The honey theft was reported Monday when a staff member arrived about 9 a.m. to find four hives entered and the honey removed, according to the incident report.
Staff members returned to the hives about 3:45 p.m. that day and found the thieves had returned and not only took more honey, but the frames inside the hives, deputies said.
Berry asked that anyone who might have information about the honey to contact the sheriff’s office or UGAPD.