Volunteer bee keeper Rod Oates said: “What has happened has been very disturbing for us and the bees.  Over winter honey bees cluster around their Queen to maintain a temperature of 35-40°C. 

 “As so many of the bees were destroyed in this fumbled attempt to steal the hive and the colony, we are unsure whether the remaining bees will survive the winter.  Only time will tell”.

Bought with donations from the public, the bees produce honey that is sold in the shop at Compton Verney.

It is going to cost the registered charity around £400 to replace the bees and the stolen hive, but if the second hive do not survive the winter this will go up to £600. 

The first hive was a more dormant colony and so thieves managed to remove it completely.

However, it appears they were forced to abandon their attempt second time round, dropping the hive on the floor.

Rod Oates looks forlornly at the hive, which was dropped during the botched theft. 

Hundreds of bees were stolen first time around, and it’s estimated that around 50 died in the second attempt. 

Although thieves escaped the scene without detection, police have now launched an investigation.

 Gary Webb, Head of Landscape and Gardens at Compton Verney said:  “We are shocked that these incidents have occurred and we would ask that all keepers in the region to be extra vigilant to the threat of bee rustling which seems to be on the increase across the country.”

Both the National Beekeepers’ Association and its Warwickshire branch have been alerted.

 Mr Webb added: “However, we will not be deterred from keeping bees and will be doing everything we can to keep them safe and support them over winter. 

"It is important for us to keep them at Compton Verney to share with the public how fascinating these creatures are, demonstrate the integral role they play in our food chain and reap the benefits of the pollination of the flora and fauna at Compton Verney.”

 Compton Verney is a registered charity and independent art gallery set in a Georgian mansion surrounded by 120 acres of grounds.

 It receives no central or local government funding, and is sustained through admissions income, memberships, sales from the shop and café, and donations.

The gallery are currently accepting donations towards a new colony of bees. To donate call Aly Grimes on 01926 645 547.

Rod putting the hive back together.

How the beehive should look.