The Scottish Government (SG) is responsible for bee health policy in Scotland along with the legislative control for the health of managed honey bees.
In Scotland there are currently around 1,400 hobby beekeepers who are members of the Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA), with an estimated further 1,000 hobbyists who are not. In addition there are around 25 commercial bee farmers who are members of the Bee Farmers Association (BFA) and whose businesses depend on the management of healthy honey bees.
All beekeepers have a significant role to play in ensuring disease management and control within their own apiaries are in order and have a legal obligation to report any suspicion of a notifiable disease or pest to the Bee Inspector at their local Scottish Government Rural Payments Inspections Directorate (SGRPID) Area Office or email Bees Mailbox with your details.
There is already a comprehensive range of information available to beekeepers, particularly on the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera)'s National Bee Unit (NBU) website BeeBase. Beekeepers are actively encouraged to register onto the system and take advantage of the pages which are designed to help those with an interest in honeybee health and to keep their bees healthy.
A strong bee health programme is important, not only for the production of honey, but also for the contribution that bees make to the pollination of many crop species and to the wider environment. Honeybees are susceptible to a variety of threats, including pests and diseases, the likelihood and consequences of which have increased significantly over the last few years. In 2010 the SG, together with representatives from the SBA and the BFA developed a 10-year Honey Bee Health Strategy for Scotland to help tackle these issues.
Strengthened partnership working between Government Departments, Beekeeping Associations and individual beekeepers is also essential if opportunities are to be taken and current and emerging threats to bee health are to be addressed. The SG takes very seriously any biosecurity threat to the sustainability of the apiculture sector and is working closely with colleagues in the NBU.
Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) provides a free diagnostic service to beekeepers to identify and confirm the presence of notifiable and other bee diseases and pests. SASA staff have further developed and enhanced their capacity to carry out bee disease diagnostics and are working closely with their counterparts at the NBU in York.
The SG supports a full-time apiculture specialist at Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) who provides comprehensive advisory, training and education programmes for beekeepers throughout Scotland on all aspects of Integrated Pest Management and good husbandry including the control of Varroa. He also promotes awareness of notifiable bee diseases and pests and the provision of general advice of good husbandry and management practices to ensure healthy honey bee colonies.
If you have any queries please contact the Scottish Government at: BeesMailbox@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.