Sunday 19 January 2020

More than a sting in the tale as bees vanish

Aideen Sheehan

SECURITY has been tightened at a Carlow farm after a sting involving the theft of three beehives.

Gardai are investigating the puzzling theft of the bee colonies from agriculture and food development authority Teagasc's Oak Park 225-hectare research farm, but said last night there had been no arrests.

Experts believe the thieves must have had experience with bees in order to have been able to pull off such a dangerous heist without getting stung.

Gardai have appealed to the bee-keeping community to keep their eyes open for unusual activity, but admit it is difficult to trace the bees as they have no particular distinguishing marks.

The hives were stolen in two separate incidents in recent weeks from one of the fields at Teagasc headquarters. The thieves would have had to carry them for 150 yards to get to a road, and, presumably, a waiting vehicle.

The robbers would also have needed to have worn protective clothing and have a knowledge of hives in order to shut them off to prevent the bees escaping during transit, a Teagasc spokesman said.

The beehives would be worth just a couple of hundred euro each, he added.

"They have a value in making honey, but they're certainly no pot of gold. They're of huge importance for our research, however, and any further thefts could jeopardise that," he said.

The bees were being studied to find out what threat, if any, was being posed to them by various diseases and pests.

Additional locks and security measures have now been added to entrances to the facility although the location's popularity among local walkers also had to be considered, the spokesman said.

Honey bees are under threat worldwide because of a mysterious condition called colony collapse disorder which has implications for honey production and for agriculture in general as bees play a crucial role in cross-pollination of crops.

Dr Mary Coffey is heading up the research into bee colonies under the National Apiculture Research Programme, which is funded by the Department of Agriculture and carried out jointly by Teagasc and the University of Limerick.

Irish Independent

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