A beekeeper has been left devastated by the destruction of scores of hives in two separate arson attacks.
And despite losing more than 1.5million honeybees and suffering nearly £10,000 of damage, Michaela Tulett said police have failed to do anything to help catch the culprits.
She described herself as ‘numb with shock’ after the latest attack in which 20 hives were doused in petrol and torched. ‘They are live animals – it’s disgusting and a senseless act of violence,’ she added.
Miss Tulett, who runs her small business Api-Bees with the help of her partner Marco Melo, is mystified about the motive for the attacks.
The hives were first targeted last June when the arsonist poured petrol over them and set them alight in the dead of night. Around 900,000 bees and 26 hives worth close to £5,000 were destroyed. Pictured: Marco Melo
The couple suspect it could be a rival jealous at the growth of their cottage industry or a local homeowner irritated by the influx of the insects.
They have also speculated that it could be a group of troublemakers who were asked to leave the area after parking nearby to drink and take drugs.
The hives were first targeted last June when the arsonist poured petrol over them and set them alight in the dead of night. Around 900,000 bees and 26 hives worth close to £5,000 were destroyed.
The attacker returned just before 10pm on April 17 and used the same means to torch 20 of the 27 hives in Sellindge, Kent. Hundreds of thousands more of the buckfast bees and hives worth about £3,600 were lost. Mr Melo, an agricultural spray operator, said the scale of destruction was ‘devastating’.
‘The boxes are made from polystyrene – once on fire they burn very quickly,’ he added. ‘Everything was completely burnt.
‘The hives are maybe 1ft apart, so they used a lot of petrol. They had to put it on each one.’
Miss Tulett, who works full-time as a data analyst, said: ‘The same area was attacked last year. It could just be a jealous beekeeper.
‘If somebody comes in the middle of the night and sets it on fire, there’s not a lot we can do.’
But Azores-born Mr Melo, 49, suggested an angry resident could be responsible.
‘There was a situation about two years ago when we had a lot of bees – about 100 hives,’ he said. ‘Someone complained that the bees had been flying around and going on cars, so we reduced the number of boxes.
‘It could be them, but it’s strange because we reduced the number of bees.’
The couple, who live in Sellindge, have hives at 15 sites. Farmers let them use their land for free as the bees pollinate crops. They do not produce honey commercially and instead develop colonies to sell on to other beekeepers.
Navin Nauth-Misir, chairman of Ashford Beekeepers in Kent, suggested yesterday that the fact that the couple do not produce honey might rule out a jealous rival, who would be more likely to steal a colony.
The couple, who live in Sellindge, have hives at 15 sites. Farmers let them use their land for free as the bees pollinate crops. Pictured: A file image showing a honeybee
Around 135 bee colony thefts have been reported nationally over the past six years. Queen bees alone can be worth up to £180 each. ‘Given that it’s happened twice in the same area, it’s likely to be someone with a gripe,’ Mr Nauth-Misir said.
‘Sometimes people get upset by swarms if they go on to a chimney or cause a nuisance.’
Residents said they had no idea who carried out the arson attacks. ‘It’s hundreds of yards away so the bees are hardly a nuisance. I haven’t had problems,’ one said.
Another added: ‘It’s disgraceful what this arsonist has been doing. I hope they catch him.’
But Mr Melo and Miss Tulett are not expecting justice soon.
Mr Melo said that after his partner reported the latest attack to police online, she heard ‘it had been filed until there’s further evidence’.
Kent Police said no arrests had been made, adding: ‘Any new information that comes to light will be investigated.’