Belfast Telegraph

Sting operation: Thieves 'chased off by swarm of bees'

Never mind guard dogs and burglar alarms... now housebreakers have a new reason to worry

By Amanda Poole

Forget about a getting an alarm system or a guard dog — the latest theft deterrent is a beehive.

Lead thieves got more than they bargained for when they tried to strip the roof of an opticians in east Belfast.

Business owner Sam Baird first realised he had been targeted when he noticed a water leak from the roof of his Upper Newtownards Road store on August 15.

A quick inspection revealed that his guttering had been vandalised and a small amount of lead flashing was missing.

Unusually, there was also a considerable amount of rolled up lead which appeared to have been abandoned by the thieves.

When the light-fingered visitors first climbed on to the store’s flat roof, they didn’t appear to notice the large beehives Mr Baird had placed there in the hope of attracting passing swarms.

And they also didn’t appear to know that a swarm of bees will be keen to defend a home they feel is under attack.

The 53-year-old optician, who said there were around 50,000 bees in the vicinity at the time of the attack, believes they acted as defenders of his property.

Mr Baird, a member of Dromore Beekeeping Association, told the Belfast Telegraph that the thieves must have fled in a hurry when his swarm attacked.

“I put the empty hives up in the springtime and a swarm moved in and made their home,” Sam said.

He believes the thieves may have needed hospital treatment after being attacked.

“They could have been stung by hundreds of bees,” he said.

“I reported the theft to the police and suggested they check the hospital for bee sting victims.”

The Lisburn man said that around £20 worth of lead was stolen and added that he couldn’t help but laugh when he worked out what must have happened on the roof.

“Everybody is pleased whoever took the lead had a sore time,” Sam said.

“Lead vandalism causes so much damage, cost and inconvenience for a few pounds of scrap. I hope lessons have been learned. It’s a lesson in natural justice. As a beekeeper I know how aggressively bees can defend the hive, and what multiple stings feel like,” he added.

“They did something wrong and got stung for it”

Dr Mervyn Eddie, secretary of the Ulster Beekeepers Association, described the incident as “poetic justice”.

He explained that the number of beehives in urban areas is increasing and said the association welcomed new members.

“In urban areas there are thousands of gardens with all different kinds of plants that are of interest to bees,” Mervyn added.

“There is a trend toward urban beekeeping and I’ve noticed people in urban areas have a more consistent honey flow.”

Anyone with information about the theft at Sam’s business can contact Castlereagh police station on 0845 600 8000.

Background

Urban beekeeping has been a growing trend in recent years as enthusiasts believe it is a great way to bring nature in to the city. Whether you have a small back garden, a roof top at home or at work, it is easy to keep bees in such limited space. The Ulster Beekeepers’ Association was formed in 1942. There are 12 branches: Belfast, Dromore, East Antrim, Fermanagh, Killinchy, Mid Antrim, Mid Ulster, Randalstown, Rostrevor, Warrenpoint and Roe Valley. Londonderry is the newest addition.

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