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White van men swipe British black bees

Dundee Uni hit by hive heist: Buzzkillers 'knew how to handle bees'

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Tayside police are asking the public to keep an eye out for four hives containing thousands of British black bees which were lifted from the Centre for Neurosciences at Dundee Uni's medical school.

BLACKBEE

Black bee Photo by Commons Wikimedia

The missing bees were part of a £2m research project investigating "the potential effect of pesticides on bee learning and health", Reuters explains.

Lead researcher Dr Chris Connolly said the theft last Sunday would "undoubtedly hamper" his team's work, although there is a chance the insects can be recovered.

Connolly described the bees as "very unique" and easily identified if offered for sale.

As bee numbers have declined in the last few years, thefts of colonies have increased to feed an "apian black market". Back in 2009, Great Little Honey Company at Rowley Hill Farm in Stretton, Staffordshire, lost 18 hives to the illicit trade.

Beekeeper Richard Lindsey explained: "It must have been someone who knew what they were doing – someone in the trade. You would need equipment to load them on to a truck and they’re not easy to lift. And you would have to know what you were doing – if you drop them or let them out you’d get badly stung up without protection."

The Dundee heist was also the work of professionals, according to Connolly. He said: "Clearly whoever did this knows what they were doing and how to handle bees."

The bee-savvy thieves could be a couple of men seen at the scene early on Sunday. Police want to trace them and a white van also spotted at the time. ®

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