A FAMILY of beekeepers have been left shocked and saddened after one million of its bees were stolen.

Beekeeper Honey, a Brackley business run by the Manton family, found 40 of its hives had been stolen from a farmer's field off the A4421 between Fringford and Bicester on Saturday.

Each hive is thought to hold 25,000 bees each, adding up to about one million bees that were taken some time between February 17 and February 24.

Oxford Mail:

Bee keeper Lara Manton, who was in charge of the stolen bees, said this time of year the family carry out regular checks to ensure the hives are not damaged and that the lids are still on.

It was during these checks that her parents found the hives were missing.

She said: "They were in a field between Fringford and Bicester, which you cant see from the road.

"So it is weird, someone must have scouted them out or knew they were there.

"That's what worries us."

Ms Manton said there were 40 hives taken and eight left behind - the biggest theft of bees that the family have heard of.

She added: "If you have the capability of moving 40 hives, each weighing 20 kg, it is quite an operation. It is shocking."

The family started in 1999 and Ms Manton said luckily the theft is just part of its business so shouldn't have too much of an impact.

The beekeeper said: "For us it is really sad but it is not going to shut down our business.

"But for others that could be half of their whole operation. I just worry it will become a regular occurrence.

"I was meant to manage these bees for my first season, so they were my bees which is really sad."

Ms Manton said another worry is that whoever has stolen the bees may not have the right knowledge to care for them.

Moving the hives, all brightly coloured and measuring about 18ins would have also angered the bees being disturbed and the family say would've required some skill.

Over the next few months the colonies are expected to grow and if they remain in the hives as they are by May they could possibly swarm through Oxfordshire.

Thames Valley Police is investigating the theft and appealing for information. Anyone with any details is asked to contact police on 101

The hives have distinct markings and can be identified by the family if found, any details also contact brackleybees@hotmail.com