It's a holiday heist that has an Ontario community buzzing with disbelief.
Two sizable hives holding some 30,000 bees were stolen from a field in Kanata, and the couple that cares for them is asking for the public's help in finding whoever is responsible.
Marianne Gee and her husband run the Gees Bees Honey Company, which rents bee hives to business in the capital region.
A real estate company, Minto Group, rented two hives from the couple as part of its efforts to help the declining honey bee population in the area.
When Gee and her husband went to conduct a regular check on the hives on Boxing Day, they found that the large wooden structures were missing, as were the bees living inside them.
"Both hives, the entire boxes, the bees, everything, they had been carried down quite a big hill," said Gee. "You could see footprints in the mud where someone had walked up and taken them and left. And they would have had to have left in a truck or trailer."
Concern over well-being of bees
The beige hives, with blue and white Minto logos on their sides, probably weighed about 34 kilograms, said Gee, and likely couldn't be carried too far.
While the financial loss of the missing hives — about $400 to $500 each — isn't a huge one, Gee and her husband are more concerned about the well-being of the bees.
'If the hive is moved in the winter, that cluster can get shaken apart and the bees can very quickly freeze.' - Marianne Gee
"Bee keepers don't move their bees in the winter," she said, explaining that bees cluster in a ball around the queen bee during cold weather, vibrating their wings for warmth.
"If the hive is moved in the winter, that cluster can get shaken apart and the bees can very quickly freeze."
Gee also noted that there would be just enough honey in the hive for the bees to get through the winter, but not enough to harvest.
Police report filed
The couple has filed a police report and has asked Ottawa area residents to report any sightings of the hives.
"We were definitely shocked that they disappeared," said Gee. "I've never heard of someone in Ottawa or Ontario having bee hives stolen."
Whoever made away with the hives likely knows something about bees or is interest in bee keeping, Gee added.
"We're hoping someone in Ottawa has seen someone acquire brand new beehives," she said. "It's really quite bizarre to me."
Despite the bewildering loss of their hives, Gee says she and her husband have been heartened by many Ottawa residents reaching out to them over the incident and helping to spread the word.
"I think there's a lot of good-hearted people out there," she said. "That's been heartwarming to see that sort of response from the community."
Ontario has seen a decline in its bee population over the past few years due to a variety of causes including weather pattern changes and use of pesticides.