Conservation and Biodiversity

Honey Heists and Honey Fraud

Honey is more than just a sweetener, it can be used to produce a variety of products ranging from skincare to candles and even medicine. Honey has multiple purposes, making it a high valued commodity in most global markets. The underground crime of honey fraud and heists is threatening the livelihood and purity of product for many farmers in the industry.

The average bee produces less than a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. With the population of bees declining and the demand for honey rising, how are farmers keeping up? The answer is: honey adulteration, which is when honey is diluted with syrups derived from other crops and marketed as pure. Why is diluted honey dangerous? Many adulterated honey has chloramphenicol, an antibiotic used to keep bees healthy but can be fatal to humans, therefore, it is illegal to import products contaminated with the antibiotic into the United States.

One of the biggest cases of food fraudulence in the United States was Honey Holdings I v. Alfred L. Wolff Inc (AWL). ALW, once a top importer, was marketing Chinese honey riddled with traces of Chloramphenicol as Russian Honey. About 85-90% of the honey ALW imported was part of this criminal scheme to label the contaminated honey as pure, Russian honey and sell it at inflated prices. 

Sadly, ALW is one of many businesses and corporations involved in fraud within the honey industry. As a result of honey adulteration, many companies not engaging in corruption go to extreme measures to make sure the honey they buy, import, and sell is ethically sourced and chloramphenicol free. 

Aside from being honey producers, bees are also responsible for pollinating millions of acres of crops in agricultural centers like California. Beekeepers cannot survive on honey production alone; they gain most of their income from crop pollination and lose hundreds of thousands of dollars when their colonies are stolen in honey heists

Honey heists were a big issue in California in January 2017 as thousands of bee colonies were stolen in Sutter County. Lloyd Cunniff, a beekeeper from Montana, moved to California and lost 120 colonies overnight which cost him around $100,000 in profit. Honey heists not only affect the beekeepers but they also impact crop production. Eventually, the two men suspected of being responsible for these heists were said to have accumulated almost a million dollars in assets and 2,500 hives over three years. 

EARTHDAY.ORG is dedicated to raising awareness about species at risk and protecting our ecosystems through our Protect Our Species campaign. Through collective action we prevent important species such as the bees from facing extinction and save the ecosystem. Take action by learning more information about bees or sign the petition to protect endangered species. Without bees around, many plants and animals will die and the ecosystem will unravel.