'Specialist' thieves steal 24,000 bees
The owner of 24,000 bees stolen from a private estate in South Yorkshire said the theft must have been carried out by someone with expertise in beekeeping.
The hives and bees, worth about £2,000, were taken on 26 April from the Hooton Pagnell Hall estate, near Doncaster.
Beekeeper Amanda Clayton said she was heartbroken by the theft.
South Yorkshire Police said it was investigating the incident, which is reported to be the first case of bee rustling in the UK this year.
Ms Clayton said: "It takes a lot of hard work and money to keep bees - and to turn up and find they were all gone is heartbreaking."
"The bees were active, and the hives were full."
She believes the theft of her entire stock was carried out by someone who knew how to handle and transport them without being stung.
A bee smoker was left at the scene, possibly used to calm the bees before they were taken, she added.
Ms Clayton, who only started keeping bees about a year ago, said she intended to start again, and had taken advice about branding equipment to deter thieves, and to make it easier to find if it is stolen.
Diane Roberts, from the British Bee Keeping Association, said it was the first case she had heard of this year.
She concurred with Ms Clayton that the culprits would have had a knowledge of beekeeping.
"For a start you couldn't just load a hive into the back of a car", she said.
"People would be stung from head to foot."
She said the thieves would have probably sedated the bees using a smoker, before blocking up the entrances to the hives.
It is thought the bees are being divided up and resold by unscrupulous keepers, she added.