Tulare business loses $75K following beehive theft

Close up of wooden frame with honey cells. Bees on honey cells.

L&W Beekeeping works to restore operations after almost 250 beehives were stolen from the business, totals to a multi-thousand loss for owner Jacob Lucio

TULARE – A homegrown beekeeping business has been left to rebuild after becoming victim to a recent ag crime sting, where nearly all of the business’ beehives were stolen.

The beehives were taken sometime between the night of Friday, June 9 to the morning of Saturday, June 10, according to the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO). This accumulated to an approximate loss of about $75,000 for L&W Beekeeping owner Jacob Lucio.

“It is a huge hit – it’s really everything I had,” Lucio said about the theft. “I have a few hives left over, and I’m planning to just basically rebuild my business from the ground up.”

L&W Beekeeping is a Tulare-based business Lucio started around three years ago. From the purchase of his first 10 hives to kick off his beekeeping operations, Lucio worked his way up from 10 to 250 hives, all stored in 65 uniquely-colored pallets consisting of pinks, purples and light blue hues to signify they belonged to his business.

He found himself in his current predicament that June 10 morning, shortly after he arrived to start his work day at about 8 a.m. Instead, he was met with the unfortunate realization that majority of his hives were taken sometime between the night and morning.

“They were all just gone,” Lucio said. “They left me one pallet.”

The hives were taken from a lot near the small town of Woodville, on a piece of land along the intersection of Road 168 and Avenue 180. Lucio said he recently brought them into the area – roughly two weeks prior to the incident – from somewhere in the Porterville and Springville area, where the bees were pollinating the seasonal citrus blooms.

“I definitely think it was another beekeeper,” Lucio said about the potential culprit. “At least somebody with bee knowledge. They had to have had a forklift, or a Bobcat.”

For 2023, L&W Beekeeping is the sixth victim of beehive theft within Tulare County, according to TCSO lieutenant Bobby Rader. As head of ag crime general investigation units, Rader confirmed that majority of the time, when these thefts come about, the beehives are almost always stolen by other beekeepers.

“It’s not unique to Tulare County,” Rader said about the overall circumstance. “It happens all up and down the state, but it generally happens between January and March, or April.”

From the late winter to early spring months, Rader noted beehive thefts are more common due to the influx of bees in the Central Valley for seasonal pollination. He said there’s no rhyme or reason behind the crimes, or trend amongst them that’s been observed; however, the sheriff’s office is certain the theft was committed by another beekeeper, from Rader’s account, due to the thief needing experienced knowledge in how to handle the bees, having the proper equipment to move them, etc.

“It’s just sad that it’s other beekeepers doing it to them, because they know what the loss is,” Rader said.

On June 13, a GoFundMe account was made for Lucio’s business and, as of press time, is close to achieving its goal of $5,000 to support Lucio in his unfortunate circumstance.

“I’ve gotten a lot of support from family, friends, people that I’ve never even met,” Lucio said. “The community is really helping out.”

The “buzz” around L&W Beekeeping

Jacob Lucio set up L&W Beekeeping roughly three years ago, and started it out with some trial-and-error learning before growing into what it is now. The Tulare-born business pollinates the fields of local ag growers and makes its own brand of honey from what is collected by the bee colonies.

“Either that, or I’ll take them up to the hills, to the mountains, or they’ll go to the coastal area, and they just get natural forage up there for honey,” Lucio said.

From Lucio’s account, L&W Beekeeping started as a hobby before blossoming into a full-grown business operation. He was inspired to start beekeeping after speaking to a friend about it.

Lucio noted he didn’t have too much knowledge about bees prior to the conversation, aside from seeing them as they pollinated plants within the Central Valley. He took an interest in the beekeeping apiary – which is a field or lot where beehives are kept – after the discussion.

“After about a year of doing research, I went and bought my first 10 hives and just kind of worked my way up,” Lucio said.

Like other beekeeping operations, Lucio’s work starts in the winter time around January, when he prepares the bees to start pollinating the seasonal almond orchard blooms. When making honey, he said his preferred blooms of choice are orange blossoms to make orange blossom honey.

Although he has found himself in this unfortunate situation, Lucio said his next steps are to keep pushing his business forward and better prepare himself for any future circumstances that could come about.

“I’m going to go buy a few more hives here in maybe a week or two, and just kind of start fresh again,” Lucio said.

As he navigated his way through the beekeeping business, Lucio made a special mention for two of his biggest supporters, his father Eric Lucio – who has ties to the ag world – as well as his father-in-law Bill Freeman. He said his father has been a big contributor to L&W Beekeeping by helping him with equipment and getting his business off the ground.

“I just really owe a lot to my dad for being so successful in this business,” Lucio said. “For my father-in-law, he’s just along the lines of a very big supporter. I really couldn’t do a lot of these things without them.”

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