LEE COUNTY - The theft of bee hives are on the rise in Southwest Florida, costing beekeepers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Experts say when those bees are stolen, the number of dangerous killer bees goes up and those bees have been known to attack people and kill pets.
Keith Councell and his wife, Melissa, are beekeepers and also run a licensed bee removal service called ‘Councell Farms’.
When Cuncell removes nuisance bees he says he will, "Just reach in and pull them out by hand." Their latest assignment on Friday evening was to remove a hive of 60-thousand bees from the entrance of a gated community in Naples.
Councell explains, "I'll catch the queen, put her into a cage. All the bees will go into it and we'll take it back to our operation to work them for pollination."
Councell shows us how he begins by smoking the bees out and then carefully removing the queen.
Councell is past president of the Florida State Beekeepers Association and one of five thousand beekeepers in the state.
He says swarms of bee thieves have been stealing hives and, just like when his hives were stolen two years ago, law enforcement does little about it.
Councell tells us, “We don't even bother reporting it anymore because it falls on deaf ears. They do absolutely nothing for us."
Agricultural experts say beekeepers keep the numbers of dangerous Africanized killer bees down, which is good for us.
Roy Beckworth with Lee County’s Extension Office says, "When you have this acute 'invenomation' from the venom that they release you could die because your kidneys shut down, you could die.
Beekeepers store their queen in a crated hive and let the soldier bees fly around outside during the day.
They then return to their queen's hive at night. By increasing the numbers of the non-aggressive European Bee, the more aggressive ‘killer’ bees are forced to move further away from people.
Experts say you can’t tell the difference between European and Africanized bees unless a DNA test is conducted.
They say if you see a hive don't spray it yourself since that could make things worse.
Councell warns, "You could lose your eyes, lose your vision.
You could be stung to death." He says whenever you notice a swarm of bees, it's best to just let them be.
Councell says he has video of the thieves who stole his bees and a photo of their license plate but now, two years later, still no arrests have been made.
And just so you know, August 20th happens to be National Bee Day.