BOSSES at a community project have been left reeling after two beehives worth thousands of pounds were stolen containing 4,000 bees.
Staff at the Southbrook Community Project, in Summerhill Lane, Hartlepool, arrived at the premises on Thursday morning to find two new beehives, each holding 2,000 bees, had been stolen.
The Advance in to Nature scheme aims to help young people aged 10-25 from across the community to get involved and interested in nature.
The beekeeping project was made possible by a £9,781 Awards for All lottery grant earlier in the year.
The centre also runs schemes for children excluded from school, a youth project, one to one support for young people with ADHD and a youth scheme supported by Children in Need.
Youth worker Tony Baker, from the project, said he was baffled at the disappearance of the heavy hives.
He added: “We all have to wear bee suits to get close to the hives, and with 4,000 bees, we don’t know how they’ve done it. There’s no chance of the bees surviving now but we’d love to get the hives back.
“The hives, bees and the suits cost about £3,000 so it’s a huge loss. It’s sickening to see people steal from a scheme that takes kids off the streets.
“We were one of the only places in the North-East to keep bees, and now, because of the seasons, we won’t be able to get any more until next year, even if we do get more funding. The kids are gutted.”
Mr Baker added: “One of the young people noticed. They came to me and said ‘Tony, where’s the bees’ and I turned around to find the hives were gone.
“The young people have spent eight months working on the project, learning and researching about keeping bees.
“You can see in their faces how sad they were. The bees only arrived three weeks ago. We’re gutted.”
Police have confirmed they are investigating the theft and are encouraging anyone who may have seen or heard anything to get in touch.
Anyone has information should contact Cleveland Police on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.