Five beehives have been stolen in Co Down as stores of honey reach a new low, it was revealed.
The theft comes as stocks have reduced because many bees died last winter, beekeeper David McCartney said.
He is searching for thieves who took hives with about 300,000 of the flying insects last week from Delamont Park near Killyleagh. Other equipment used for collecting honey was also removed.
Mr McCartney said: "I am disgusted, I have been working with them to keep them alive and feed them to build them up. Bees are as scarce as hen's teeth with the weather. A lot of them were lost during the winter time."
The insects were being contained in wooden boxes within a walled orchard at Delamont in an area difficult to access.
Mr McCartney added: "We cannot figure out how they got in but I would say they came in during daylight and saw them." He said moving them between Killyleigh and Downpatrick some time between last Monday afternoon and Saturday would have been quite a big operation.
The hives - which were being prepared for a training programme for new beekeepers - are valued at about £500 in total.
Police appealed for anybody with information or who noticed unusual activity to contact them.