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GPS hidden in honeycomb helps Tennessee authorities find stolen beehives

Posted at 12:12 PM, Apr 26, 2022

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Bees these days are big money.

And hive box rustling is at an all-time high.

Yes — dozens of beehives have recently been stolen in Middle Tennessee.

But, there's been a bee bust as a clever keeper used technology to track the thieves.

Beehive thefts often happen at night in rural areas, and the thieves make a clean getaway.

Bees are livestock, just like cattle.

You can't brand a bee, but you can track the hive.

"All the hives they took here from this location were mature hives. They survived through the winter," said Jon Jones.

He and his father, Jerry, count on their bees to harvest honey to sell annually.

Instead, Jerry is busy trying to catch a swarm of bees in a Murfreesboro field, bees likely from hives that were stolen in recent weeks but now are back.

"It was all of these and all the ones you can see here, basically," said Jon Jones, pointing to the recovered hives.

In all, 17 hives came back home but are now damaged and held together by duct tape.

WTVF has reported on several stolen hives in recent months.

Tom Hartley also lost his in Rutherford County late last year.

"That's a huge loss to lose five full hives for any hobbyist like you or me," said Hartley.

Jones agrees.

"We gotta do something because they are coming and getting them. And they're pretty valuable," he said.

Here's what Jones did: He guessed the brazen thieves might come back to the property for more hives.

This time he was ready. He embedded a tiny GPS device in the comb.

"We basically took these hives here and hid the tracker inside of them."

Sure enough, the thieves returned to steal more hives.

Jones tracked them to a home and called authorities, who served a warrant finding scores of what are believed to be stolen hives — all robbed of their honey.

Both Hartley and Jones have their hives back and hope this bust sends a message.

Beehive boxes are typically set up in more remote areas away from people, making them easy targets.

Rutherford County Sheriff's Office deputies, Murfreesboro police, and Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency agents are still investigating the case.

Arrests are likely pending in the coming days.

Nick Beres at WTVF first reported this story.