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Criminals switch bee boxes with empty ones to conceal theft in central MN

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Police in central Minnesota are investigating an unusual theft, after several boxes of bees were stolen from private land.

Willmar Police say on its Facebook page that the theft took place some time between Wednesday and Saturday, Aug. 26-29, just west of the Hillcrest Truck Stop & Restaurant on North Highway 71 by Willmar.

The thieves stole a "number of boxes" containing bees from the land and replaced them with similar-looking – but empty – boxes so as to conceal the theft.

Around $900 worth of unprocessed honey was taken. Police say those who carried out the crime are likely to have had a "larger vehicle or trailer" and would have needed protective clothing.

Anyone with information should call the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office at 320-235-1260.

Beehive thefts a growing problem

The theft of bees appears to be a growing trend, according to a report by the BBC, as their values increase because their populations are falling, potentially due to insecticide use, disease and loss of habitat.

Weather.com reports it has proved a particular issue in California, where bees are used as pollinators for the state's almond-growing industry (producing 80 percent of the world's almond nuts).

Rustlers are taking advantage of the millions of bee boxes transported to the West Coast each year to pollinate almond trees, with each hive worth about $200 in rental fees to beekeepers, Weather.com notes.

Australia is another country where the scarcity of beehives has made them a popular target for thieves, affecting the country's own almond growers, according to ABC Australia.

The Independent reported last month that a surge in the price of locally-produced honey could also be motivating the rise in the crime in the United Kingdom.

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