A Taranaki beekeeper has been stung by the theft of 20 hives containing up to a million bees.
Stephen Black said the theft had cost him thousands of dollars. The hives had at least 200 kilograms of honey, which was ready for harvest.
He said they were probably targeted because of the increasing value of manuka honey.
"What unscrupulous people are seeing is that perhaps they can make a quick buck by stealing someone else's honey.
"We've done the hard work and they want to take our rewards."
Mr Black, who has about a thousand hives in the region, said the hives contained only a portion of manuka honey.
He believes whoever stole them had a good knowledge of the industry. To get the full value of the honey it would need to be extracted by a licensed operator, he said.