Sheffield & South Yorkshire

'Specialist' thieves steal 24,000 bees

One of the hives before the theft Image copyright Amanda Clayton
Image caption The hives contained about 24,000 worker bees and four queens

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.

More on this and other local stories from across Yorkshire

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."

Image copyright Amanda Clayton
Image caption Six beehives were taken in the raid - four of which were in use

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.

Image copyright Amanda Clayton
Image caption The thieves left a bee smoker at the scene, possibly used to calm the bees before taking them, Ms Clayton said

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