- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

WATKINSVILLE, Ga. (AP) - Thieves stole about 15 pounds of honey at a University of Georgia honey bee research location in Oconee County, a criminal act that a staffer said hinders research.

The Athens Banner-Herald reports (https://bit.ly/2hNiDaV) that the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the thefts from hives owned by the University of Georgia’s Horticulture Farm on Hog Mountain Farm.

The hives, south of Watkinsville, were looted and at least three times in recent days.

The sheriff’s office and the University of Georgia Police Department are investigating.

“It’s a commodity that fluctuates in price and now the price is kind of high,” Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said Wednesday. “We’ll do our best to find out who stole it.”

The hives are part of a $1.2 million research project partnered with Emory University to study the impact of the Varroa mite, 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,” said Nicholas Weaver, a staff member of the horticulture farm.

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.

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Information from: Athens Banner-Herald, https://www.onlineathens.com


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