POLICE are combing the countryside after thieves stole a swarm of 100,000 bees from their hive over the weekend.
Prominent bee-keeper Eric Miller, from Hailsham, said thieves entered the site just off the A22, stealing 53 frames containing three colonies of bees – before reassembling the hives to disguise the crime.
Mr Miller, 77, has been a bee keeper for 50 years and is a member of the Eastbourne Bee Keepers’ Association.
He suspects the culprits have inside knowledge. He said, “It is not unusual to have the hives stolen but to actually pinch the swarm of bees on comb is so bizarre.
“You have got to know what you are doing with bees and have your own hives to put them in.
“It is very strange they have taken the hive insides out and just pinched the bee frames.
“It is hard work – it would have been easier for them to take the hives. To do what they have done is a very long-winded way of pinching bees.”
The theft took place between noon on Saturday and 3pm on Sunday, Mr Miller noticed the bees were gone.
“I checked on them on Saturday and left them alive and well that day,” he said. “I went back and the hives were still there. I looked up there, everything looked perfect.
“Then I suddenly realised one of the hives hadn’t got a floor any more.
“That is when I took a closer look and saw they had opened the hives up and taken out the frames with the honeycomb and then put them back together. There was not a single, solitary bee left.”
The thieves also prised open a hollow log and stole the bees and honey from a wild comb inside.
“It is somebody who is very well experienced and knows what they are doing with bees. They were thinking I wouldn’t notice,” said Mr Miller.
Sussex Police are now investigating the incident after Mr Miller reported the unusual theft.
“They didn’t tell me to buzz off,” he said.
“If I replaced everything new it would cost me £700-plus. If they manage to get the three colonies through the winter and split them into six colonies, they could make £600.”