Thousands of bees dead and hive missing during suspected theft at Musselburgh beekeeper's apiary

A beekeeper has been left feeling devastated after many of her bees were found dead and more than 2,000 missing in a suspected theft at an apiary.

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 9:23 pm

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Amanda Moffet, who owns several hives at Newhailes House and Gardens in Musselburgh, East Lothian, was horrified to find her ‘nuc box’ – one of her portable hives containing more than 2,000 bees and a newly hatched queen – was missing on Saturday morning.

She also received a phone call from a local dog walker that same morning warning her one of the hives was open, and arrived to find many bees inside it had died due to heavy rainfall on Friday night.

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Hive on the left with the red mark is the portable one - the 'nuc' - that is believed to have been stolen. The tool in the top right is the make-shift smoker Amanda Moffet found at her apiary on Saturday morning and the queen cells pictured bottom right were what she had put in the nuc box with other bees to hatch a new queen.

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"It’s been a hard weekend,” she said, speaking to Edinburgh Evening News.

"Not only was the nuc box of bees stolen, these bees were just hatching a new queen so it was an incredibly vulnerable time for them.

“The queen would have probably just hatched, so there is not much chance they will survive.

The 'nuc box' on the far right with the red mark is the portable hive containing more than 2,000 bees and a newly hatched queen which is believed to have been stolen.

"They needed additional food and not to be moved at this time.”

Ms Moffet said she found a makeshift smoker – a tool used in beekeeping to calm bees – next to the hive that was left open.

"It was heartbreaking to look through the hive that was opened,” she said.

The queen cells Amanda Moffet put in the nuc box with other bees to hatch a new queen.

"A lot of the bees in this hive died and from their behaviour today it looks like their queen was killed.

"The bees would have tried to defend their hive and I imagine this person was badly stung.”

Ms Moffet warned anyone who finds the hive not open it if the bees are sealed in as they will be “distressed and angry.”

She said: “Without help from a beekeeper this whole colony that have been stolen will die. If they are found in the next few days and returned I could try and save them.”

The make-shift smoker - a tool used in beekeeping to calm bees - found at the apiary the morning Amanda Moffet noticed one of her hives was missing and another one had been opened.

She added: “Bees can fly at 30 miles an hour and chase you, they also have facial recognition for three days so if this person shows their face again in the apiary it’s likely it will be a painful outcome.”

The suspected theft has been reported to Police Scotland who have been contacted for comment.

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