For two years, St. Andrew’s United Church has kept tens of thousands of Italian honey bees on their back lawn. The flying insects not only lift the spirits of the congregants, they also pollinate the surrounding plants.
But on Sept. 27, the beloved beehive disappeared from the church grounds.
“I was very upset. I thought, ‘Who would do this?’” said church minister Rev. Judith Hardcastle.
She says she pulled up to the church Wednesday morning right in front of the beehive and it was still there, but by the afternoon, she received a message from the office administrator asking her what happened to the bees.
Confused, Hardcastle went to check on the hive only to find it gone without a trace.
The church got the hive from an urban beekeeping company but maintenance costs around $4,000 per year, according to Hardcastle. She says it’s money well spent and the church received around 100 small jars from the company which it would sell at fundraisers.
“We do everything we can to live in a green way, and pollinators are really at risk, so we decided that would be our next project,” Hardcastle said.
The church doesn’t have any security cameras and so far, has no idea who took the hive of some 20,000 bees.
“I was upset because my first thought is someone just took the bees to be funny and they knew nothing about bees. They would die, you know, especially going into the winter season.”
The church reported the theft to police. Investigators are now appealing for any witnesses or people with dashcam video to come forward.
“There are no leads at this point. There’s no CCTV, there are no witnesses, there’s nothing that could help get us into the right direction,” North Vancouver RCMP Const. Mansoor Sahak said.
University of British Columbia honey bee researcher Alison McAfee says unfortunately the value of hives and their typically rural and unsecured locations make targets for thieves. A full-sized hive costs around $500, she says.
However, she isn’t sure why someone would choose right now to steal a hive if they intended to use it to make honey.
“Hives are more often stolen in the spring and summer. It doesn’t make sense to go to the effort of stealing a hive going into winter, as there is a one in four chance it will die over the winter,” McAfee wrote to Global News.
“You can’t really sell bees at this time of year, and there are no pollination contracts to make money off of.”
Some hive owners brand their boxes and frames so they are easily identifiable if someone steals them and tries to sell them, McAfee said.
Hardcastle says if the church needs to replace the hive, they will chain it to prevent another theft. But she says the cost of a security camera is too much.
“I think they should be ashamed of themselves,” she said.
“Not so much from stealing from a church but stealing, period.”
However, she says the bee bandit is welcome to return the hive, no questions asked.
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