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HARTLAND – There’s a sticky-fingered thief in Niagara County who’s got sheriff’s deputies buzzing.

A beekeeper reported to authorities that 300 pounds of raw honey had been stolen from one of his fields in the 7800 block of Gill Road.

Bruce Fiegel, the owner of Appleton-based Fiegel Apiaries, said in the past 18 days someone made off with five and a half boxes of honey, which contained 45 screens and held approximately 300 pounds of raw honey. The honey was taken and the boxes were left behind. The total loss was $1,025.

He said that whoever removed the honey likely knew what they were doing.

But Fiegel is scratching his head about how someone pulled off the stunt.

“They had to know what they were doing. While we work on it, we have leather gloves and coveralls,” Fiegel said.

He said if not, “They’d probably be in the hospital by now. They’d be stung a lot. There’s zillions of bees in these things.”

He said the thieves left most of the bees behind.

“They took the honey the bees made all summer and left behind the bottom two boxes where most of the brood is and the queen,” he said.

He said he has heard of a similar theft at an apiary in Rochester last year but never had been burglarized at his sites.

“We’ve had some vandalism over the years – kids throw rocks at the bees or push things over. Quite a few years ago someone took a few frames, but these people took all the honey out of four hives,” said Fiegel.

Fiegel, who is a second generation beekeeper, has worked with honey bees since 1968. He said on a good year they make 50 tons of honey. The site on Gill Road was one of about 50 locations where he keeps bees, but a theft like this could affect his bottom line if it continues, he said.

Niagara County sheriff’s deputies interviewed a homeowner in the area near the northeast field on Gill Road, but didn’t turn up any leads.

Fiegel said the hives on Gill Road are out in the open, but most of the other hives are in more secluded sites.

“You can’t have them all in one place,” Fiegel said of his broods. “They have to fly around to get the nectar from flowers for honey.”

He said the theft on Wednesday is a small part of some of the many issues honey farmers face.

“People don’t understand,” he said. “It takes all summer for the bees to make the honey.”

He said last year was as a tough one, with people spraying for army ants, which drove down his colonies from 1,100 bees last summer to 650 by this spring.

The beekeeper just can’t understand what someone would want with so much honey.

“It’s like $3 a pound at Tops. But 300 pounds? It is more than you would eat yourself,” Fiegel said.

But he said he doesn’t think this is something another fellow beekeeper would do.

He said the thieves may be dealing with a messier situation than they bargained for.

“They have to get it out of the frames somehow. To me, it must be a huge mess, what they did. We have stuff to process this and get it out,” Fiegel said.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com