ON the list of things that need special protection from thieves - from bikes to cellphones to copper wire - North Vancouverite can now add another item: bees.
Ric Erikson learnt this the hard way earlier this month when a bee conservation project he had helped a group of boy scouts set up was raided by burglars.
Erikson, a beekeeper who heads up a conservation organization called BeeFriendly, helped the 18th Seymour Scouts install the 20 nesting boxes in Mosquito Creek Park in May as part of a pilot project aimed at learning more about the North Shore's bee population.
Each box held a bundle of about 20 bamboo tubes designed to be inviting to wild bees.
Erikson and the scouts, with the co-operation of the City of North Vancouver, were planning to come back in the fall to take a census of the bee varieties that had set up shop inside them.
If the project worked, Erikson would expand it to other areas of the municipality, with each cluster overseen by a different troop.
But in early September, Erikson arrived at the park to find the installation had been raided.
"Someone had come along and taken the bundles of tubes out, (had kept) all the tubes that had bees nesting in them, and had put empty tubes back in," he said. "They'd made a big effort to go through each and every box."
Roughly 340 of the 400 nesting tubes were gone. The fact that the strings had been undone and removed and only the inhabited tubes taken suggested the theft had been deliberate and targeted, rather than the work of an animal or a random act of vandalism, said Erikson.
"My suspicion is that somebody heard me do (one of my presentations) - and it was in the paper that the scouts were doing the project down there - and they decided: 'Well, I'll get some native bees for my yard.' You can buy mason bees from local nurseries, but that costs about $40."
The act was deeply upsetting - not only to Erikson, but also to the youngsters who had put time and effort into the experiment.
"I was pretty angry that someone would stoop so low to steal bees from the boy scouts," he said. "It's really disappointing that it ended this way, because without the bees we can't continue our program."
Erikson isn't going to let the setback derail the larger project, however. He's planning to redesign the boxes to protect them from theft, and then expand the effort into other areas of the municipality with the help of other scout troops.
It's important work, he said, as it will improve understanding of local bee populations and perhaps ultimately help with their recovery.
"We've lost 50 per cent of our bees in the last 30 years," said Erikson. "We're trying to launch a conservation education program for the community so that North Van can make a response to that loss."
For more information about Erikson's organization or about bee conservation efforts on the North Shore, visit beefriendly. ca.