Spate of bee thefts in Cley, Woodbastwick and King’s Lynn
10:00 16 June 2014
Archant Norfolk 2014
Specialist thieves are thought to be behind the disappearance of tens of thousands of bees across Norfolk.
The three thefts, which took place in King’s Lynn, Woodbastwick and Cley in the past two months, have seen whole hives disappear, and bee keepers losing colonies which have taken years to build up.
In Cley, 68-year-old John Gubb had been nurturing his bees for four years, watching the colony grow to up to 80,000.
Mr Gubb, a safety consultant in the timber industry, had built the hives himself, and kept them in a field close to his home.
But when he went to check them he noticed two were missing – along with his thousands of bees, worth about £600.
Mr Gubb, who lives with his wife, Dianne, and springer spaniel Gracie, said it would have taken at least two people to lift a 25kg hive.
He said: “Beekeepers are normally honest people. They won’t steal another beekeeper’s equipment, but you might get the odd one.
“My first reaction was that I was rather cheesed-off. I just hope it is someone stupid enough to get quickly stung.”
He said the thieves were likely to have experience in keeping bees. He said: “If they hadn’t known what they were doing there would have been a thick black cloud.”
The wooden hive, which was glued and screwed together, was secured with rope and contained a small entrance at the base to allow the bees to enter.
Mr Gubb said it would have been easy for the thieves to seal the opening to prevent the bees escaping in transit.
Mr Gubb said the bees would have been taken at least three miles away, far enough to prevent them from finding its way home.
And for Mr Gubb, keeping bees means more to him than just collecting honey,
He said: “It is the bees I am interested in rather than the honey – they are the most intelligent creatures going.
“Bees are not pets, they are totally independent creatures that allow you to work with them.”
And with no bees left, Mr Gubb said he missed “the involvement” as he would not buy any more until he and his wife had moved house.
Police wildlife officer Jason Pegden said bee thefts did not happen regularly. He said: “It has got to be a fairly specialised crime.
“If you start moving a beehive around you are going to get stung. I have certainly never seen this happen before.”
He said the crime was likely to have happened at night.
Gill Maclean, press officer at the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA), agreed that bee thefts were rare.
She said: “It is currently estimated that there are 250,000 managed colonies of honeybees owned by beekeepers in England and Wales. Thefts in most years are reported as less than 100 colonies. This is a tiny proportion of the total.”
However, Mrs Maclean added that offenders were likely to be those with knowledge of beekeeping.
She said: “Only beekeepers are likely to have the contacts to sell on colonies of bees as these are not easily sold as one-offs to other than beekeepers.”
The BBKA advise sitting apiaries carefully to avoid making them too obvious or visible and marking hive parts in a permanent way to make them identifiable - for example, with a postcode.
Other advice includes anchoring the floor to the ground and microchipping hives.
Have you lost your bees? Email firstname.lastname@example.org