Bee Hives Todd Fitchette
Bee thefts are a common occurrence with the late-winter arrival of about two million colonies to pollinate the state's almond crop. Madera County, Calif. authorities arrested a man they believe is responsible for bee thefts during the past three years.

Fresno County detectives uncover $1 million bee theft operation

It can be difficult to recover stolen hives without good identification and markings on the hives.

One arrest was made and more than 2,500 stolen bee hives worth about $875,000 were recovered in an ongoing investigation by local authorities in Central California.

The arrest was made in Fresno County in a joint effort between Fresno and Madera sheriff’s deputies after a man in a bee suit was discovered with more than 100 hives near Fresno.

Pavel Tveretinov, 51, of Sacramento, was arrested by the Madera County deputies and charged on a felony count of possession of stolen property. He later posted $10,000 bail.

According to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, detectives later found stolen bee hives at two other locations in the county. To date, authorities have recovered about 2,500 stolen bee hives and identified about a dozen victims.

One of those victims was Buzz Beekeeping, of Springfield, Mo. Tony Botti, spokesperson for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, said Buzz Beekeeping notified them after their hives were reported to be in Fresno County when they should have been pollinating almonds in nearby Madera County.

Fresno County investigators believe Tveretinov is responsible for stealing hives during the past three years from various parts of the state. He would then allegedly redistribute them to different locations in California and elsewhere in the U.S., collecting the rental costs on the stolen hives.

A second victim in the investigation traveled from Montana to retrieve his bees.

According to detectives, the bee thefts tend to happen at night when the bees are generally not active. The thefts tend also to be committed by those with some knowledge of the bee industry and may have worked with bees in the past.

Bee thefts are common in January and February as over two million colonies are needed to pollinate California’s almond crop each February. Beekeepers are encouraged by county agricultural officials to register their hives with county departments of agriculture and have identifying marks in and on the hives.

Beekeepers who had hives stolen and suspect they might be in Fresno County can contact investigators there at (559) 600-3111 or email the county agricultural crimes unit at [email protected].

Those who think they may have information about bee thefts can contact Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-7867. Calls to Crime Stoppers are anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

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