Hundreds of thousands of bees and their hives have been stolen from a park in Downpatrick.
The honey bees were in four hives when they were stolen from the Delamont Country Park.
Police believe the bees and hives — together worth around £2,000 — were taken sometime between October 15 and 20.
David McCartney, a member of Killinchy and District Beekeepers’ Association, said their prime concern was the welfare of the bees.
“The reason they have been stolen is that they are scarce,” he said. “They have had a bad year and beekeepers have lost a lot of bees.”
Mr McCartney (59) said he believed those responsible for the theft knew what they were doing.
“They were in a walled garden and we can’t figure out how they got in,” he said.
“There were four colonies of bees and other pieces of equipment so I would imagine somebody would have seen something.
“Whoever did this knew the score. They knew what they were after. It is possible they were stolen to sell on to another beekeeper.
“Each colony has around 60,000 bees in one box so we are talking about 240,000 at least. Whoever took them needed to strap them up and put them in a trailer — it would be quite an operation.”
Anyone with information about the theft at the Park is asked to contact police at Downpatrick on 0845 600 8000.