A BRADFORD beekeeper has been left reeling after discovering thousands of his treasured honey bees have been stolen.

The industrious insects were stolen from an apiary made up of four hives, with three of the hives being raided and six of the frames used to accommodate the bees being taken from each one.

Paul Seage, who owns the apiary, has been keeping bees since 2010.

The 53-year-old, from Wrose, helped to set up the Bradford Beekeepers Association.

He said: “I went to check on my honeybee colonies at my apiary, where I put new fondant into my hives.

“I then went back to check fondant levels about two weeks later, and upon opening one of the hives I found no bees inside, only to find that there were six missing frames. This was the same for all my other hives.

“I had about 90,000 bees overall, and they are worth about £600.

“I still have one colony and some friends have said they will help me out to make a new colony in spring.

“It’s something I enjoy, I use the honey myself and also sell it at my local church St Cuthbert’s.

“I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

Mr Seage added that he has made the police aware of the incident.

Ian Dwyer, chair of the Bradford Beekeepers Association, said the theft is “totally disgusting”.

He said: “I really do feel for Paul at this time, as I’m sure it’s a real devastating experience for him.

“Honeybee theft is on the rise across the UK and as a beekeeping association in Bradford we are totally aware of how this is affecting beekeepers across the country.

“It saddens me that this has now occurred in Bradford to one of our own members.

“People should be aware of buying bees from people who are not members of a beekeeping association, where the seller has little experience of keeping bees themselves, or has few bees themselves.”

Thefts of honeybee colonies have been on the rise across the UK, with more than 135 thefts reported to the police since 2011.

The data, revealed last year in a Freedom of Information request, also showed in West Yorkshire, about £2,000 of bees were stolen, including two thefts in February 2016 worth an estimated £900 each.

Queen bees from certain strains can fetch price tags of up to £180.

A spokesperson for the Bradford Beekeepers Association said there is a worry the thefts are being carried out by other beekeepers.

He said: “To be able to steal honeybees requires a fair degree of knowledge and equipment.

“Thousands of colonies have been stolen throughout the UK, and now this trend has hit a Bradford beekeeper.

“The way that Paul has described what has happened to him, shows that the hives were not taken and left in situ.

“The thieves had the knowledge and equipment to be able to move a number of frames out of each hive, leaving the hives behind.”