By Cara Sulieman
AS stings go it was pretty audacious and one that has left police buzzing.
Half-a-million bees in their hives stolen as they were being prepared for harvest to be used in Royal honey supplied to Prince Charles’ popular Duchy Estates range.
In all 11 hives were taken from Learilaw Farm near Broxburn, West Lothian.
They were being readied for transfer from Broxburn to the Royal estates at Balmoral in time for the July harvest where they would have been used to supply Prince Charles’s Duchy Estate label.
Farmer Murray McGregor, from suppliers Denrosa Honey, has little doubt that it was the lucrative honey pot inside that drew the raiders who he insists must have had specialist knowledge in order to carry-out the swoop.
Mr McGregor said: “You would need specialist knowledge to do this so it would have to be a beekeeper.
“This kind of thing makes you paranoid about the safety of your bees and everybody gets nervous when there’s a bee thief about.
“Beekeepers behave with great trust and we never interfere with anyone else’s bees, so bee thieves are widely hated because we are all vulnerable to them.
“The most likely reason is that they have taken them just for money because honey prices are quite strong.”
Honeybee numbers are in decline, leading to a sharp increase in the price of honey.
The varroa destructor mite has caused a collapse in hives numbers across the country since the winter of 2007 – leading to a 30 per cent reduction in the number of honeybees in the UK.
And that has led to a surge in demand from those still active.
The West Lothian raid on a farm run by Murray McGregor saw around £5,000 worth of the insects stolen.
But it is hoped that the unusual design of the hives will help police track down the thief as Mr McGregor is believed to the only user of the Langstroth style hive in Scotland.
Nigel Hurst, president of the Edinburgh and Midlothian Beekeepers Association said it was a worrying development.
He said: “Unfortunately this type of theft appears to be happening up and down the UK.
“It’s a sad state of affairs, and we have warned beekeepers to be extra vigilant.”
It is believed that Mr McGregor’s hives were stolen between May 6 and 12.
A police spokesman said: “Our investigations are ongoing and we are trying to make enquiries among the beekeeping community.”