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    CBS12 Chico

    Montana farmer has thousands of bees stolen from Yuba City Orchard

    Beekeepers from all over the country are flooding California with their hives getting ready for the annual almond tree pollination.

    One beekeeper drove hundreds of miles with his bees to Yuba City and promptly had them stolen: all 190,000 of them.

    Since 1954, Strachan Apiaries has been growing and harvesting bees and the products they make and like most farmers, these beekeepers love their job.

    "Weather's always different, the bees always act a little different, crops and locations are always a little different,” said Phillip Russel, vice president of Strachan. “It's not the same thing every day when you punch in."

    There are so many acres of almonds grown in California that it takes almost all the bees in the country to do the critical job of pollinating those trees to get a viable crop.

    “You will not have a crop without the bees," Phillips said.

    Beekeeper Lloyd Cunniff brought his whole operation, nearly 500 hives with millions of bees, on a truck from Montana. He was storing them here before being placed in an orchard in a couple weeks.

    “He came down Monday, he had worked his bees, checked on them, got through about half of them and was going to come back the next morning, came back the next morning and they were gone," Phillips said.

    The bees disappeared in the middle of the night stolen by someone who clearly knew what they were doing and leaving him without a product to sell to a local grower.

    "With the prices we get now that's lucrative and it helps taking care of the bees the rest of the year," Phillips said.

    But that's really the least of this beekeeper's problem.

    "That's his whole operation,” Philips said. “He has to decide now whether or not he wants to spend the money to get back into the business or maybe it's time to retire."

    As for Strachan Apiaries, they are angry but more than that, they feel bad for their colleague and friend.

    "I'm sickened by the fact that somebody would do this when we put a year's worth of work into building them up for almonds, and the money, to not reap any of the benefits," he said.

    Cunniff reportedly left one beehive back home in Montana and that's all he has left to try to re-grow his business.


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