A beekeeper has blasted the Crown Prosecution Service after it dropped arson charges against three teenagers who were accused of destroying 30 hives that he built over 20 years.
Jay Lockyer, 18, and two youths were alleged to have set the fire in Swindon, Wiltshire, that toppled 30 hives owned by 89-year-old Ron Hoskins.
The apiary in Stanton Country Park was burned down on March 16 last year and the blaze is estimated to have caused £21,000 worth of damage.
But at Swindon Youth Court last week it was confirmed that the CPS had discontinued proceedings.
Mr Hoskins, an expert apiarist, spent more than two decades researching and selectively breeding ‘super-bees’ that are able to cope with destructive varroa mites.
The apiary in Stanton Country Park, Swindon, Wiltshire, was burned down on March 16 last year and the blaze is estimated to have caused £21,000 worth of damage
Ron Hoskins, 89, an expert apiarist, spent more than two decades researching and selectively breeding ‘super-bees’ that are able to cope with destructive varroa mites
The local community later raised £20,000 to help Mr Hoskins rebuild the site amid the Covid-19 outbreak, but he has lost decades of careful breeding and will have to start from scratch.
Lockyer was handed a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £21 victim surcharge after admitting possession of a headtorch stolen from the site.
One of the boys, who faced the arson charge and cannot be named because he is under 18, was given a two-year custodial sentence last December for torching a £1.3million cottage in Wroughton.
Charges were dropped against Jay Lockyer, 18, and two youths, who were accused of setting the fire in Swindon, Wiltshire, that toppled 30 hives
The scene that greeted members of the bee group at Stanton Country Park, where they keep their hives, in March last year
The damage caused by the fire, pictured above. Mr Hoskins had devoted over two decades breeding a bee that was immune to the deadly Varroa mite, which has decimated honeybee population
What is the deadly varroa mite?
A varroa mite is pictured above
What is it? An external parasite that attaches to the lower abdomen of bees and sucks their bodily fluids.
What happens to infected bees? They can suffer from a shorter lifespan, reduced weight, shrunken and deformed wings, and reduced natural defence. Can prove fatal. Young bees often survive metamorphosis if they are sealed with the mite.
How is it controlled? Beekeepers either apply chemicals to the colony, or trap mites on brood combs before having them removed and destroyed.
Problem in the UK? Yes. Beekeepers are urged by DEFRA to monitor their hives for the pest.
Mr Hoskins, of the Swindon Honeybee Conservation Group, said it was ‘most disappointing’ that the CPS had abandoned the prosecution.
He had devoted more than two decades breeding a bee that was immune to the deadly Varroa mite, which has decimated honeybee populations.
The external parasites kill millions of the flying insects worldwide, with DEFRA urging beekeepers in the UK to monitor their hives for the pest.
Mr Hoskins said: ‘That has caused a lot of damage to the future of beekeeping because I was breeding a bee that was immune to a virus that is a killer of bees nationwide.
‘It does appear that I don’t have any more bees to breed from.
‘We couldn’t breed any last year because we didn’t have the facilities.
‘It took me 25 years to breed this bee. I don’t have another 25 years.
‘The loss to beekeeping is ginormous.’
He has put up a notice by his Stanton apiary calling on anyone with information about the arson attack to contact Wiltshire Police.
A CPS spokesperson said: ‘The CPS has a duty to keep cases under continuing review and following a further review, we concluded there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction.’
In the wake of last year’s fire, more than £20,000 was raised online for the Swindon Honeybee Conservation Group.
Mr Hoskins added: ‘I want to say thank you to everybody who donated, of course, because that was wonderful.
‘That has more or less put us back on our feet.’
In the wake of last year’s fire, of which the aftermath is pictured above, more than £20,000 was raised online for the Swindon Honeybee Conservation Group
The collection of hives and equipment pictured before the blaze. Mr Hoskins said it was ‘most disappointing’ that the CPS had abandoned the prosecution