Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes - action log and progress report: June 2021

Paper for the meeting of the group on 15 June 2021.

Items and actions

Outstanding action points from previous meetings

  • 4 - LM to draft new ‘Good practice for selling nucs’ guidelines and standards and will circulate for comment. Owner: LM. Update: LM still to do this. The group all felt this would be useful. Status: ongoing
  • 8 - MG to invite LM to next BFA meeting. Owner: MG. Update: LM will be invited to the next meeting but unsure when that will be. Status: on hold
  • 9 - MG to consider to invite Robert Field to speak to the BFA members, with emphasis on EFB control plan group, on his biosecurity and compartmentalisation methods. Owner: MG. Update: Robert Field can do it but not before October 2020. Status: on hold 
  • 32 - Graeme to explore SRUC ability to create media content to aid the delivery of Varroa training. Owner: GS. Update: Graeme not available at the moment but it was agreed to keep this open. Status: ongoing

New action points from last meeting on 15th June 2021

  • 34 - Fiona to complete Varroa mapping in Scotland. Owner: FH. Status: ongoing
  • 35 - Luis to speak to Cristina and ask if she would like to attend the next meeting for introductions/Jackie to issue calendar invite. Owner: LM and JQ. Status: ongoing
  • 36 - Luis and Fiona to pursue with SG and SASA colleagues as to what work is ongoing with the UN Climate Conference in Glasgow and if bee health will feature. Onwer: LM and FH. Status: ongoing

Quarterly reports on the outcomes of the Honey Bee Health Strategy

Each organisation’s update on the key activities completed/ delivered for each of the four delivery outcomes of the Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy.

Education, training and knowledge transfer

Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA)

Practical examinations are to take place in 2021: Junior Beekeeping, Basic Beekeeping, Intermediate, and Apiarian.

Ongoing work to implement the Magentrix system which should lead to better online learning resources. Funding received from the Scottish Government for online education work, and additional funding being sought from other sources for the ‘Online Bee Academy’ work.

A number of online webinars so far this year on diverse topics including Honey Fraud, Varroa Research, and Honey for Wound Healing, from internationally respected experts including Randy Oliver and Dr Jeff Pettis.


Currently no in-person training or talks with beekeepers are planned.

FH shared Schools Bee Health workshop video with ‘SG Science and Engineering conference’ – presentation was well received, and the value of this collaboration with EBSOC and Roslin scientists to meet outreach targets was recognised. 

FH has developed a new project plan with Annan academy bee club – this has passed the first stage with Royal Society to gain funding for the project. 

MC has been involved in training new bee inspectors. 

Scottish Government

With the start of the bee inspection season our program of talks has decreased. Since the last report we have done two talks: 

  • 6th of April 2021: talk to Nairn Beekeepers by Luis Molero
  • 10th of May 2021: talk to the NBU: Scottish Bee inspectorate by Luis Molero

Future talks planned include: 

  • Environment network: Honey Bees and the environment.16th July
  • SRUC webinar: talk to crofters. Initiation to beekeeping

Our main objective in terms of education is to train our new cohort of new bee inspectors. We are very enthusiastic about the skills, abilities and enthusiasm demonstrated by them. A special mention to Graham Henderson who found AFB during one of his first inspections. A real demonstration of his promising developing skills but also to the excellent work done by Claire Gill during her management and training of the team in the North. 

Wider training for the beekeeping community continue to be on hold due to the uncertainty and Covid-19 guidance. 

We are currently reviewing the Advisory Activities and outputs from SRUC. Scottish Government funds SRUC’s bee expert advisor and we are currently reviewing what outputs and education content would make best use of the funding provided. 

We are working with Graeme Sharpe on refreshing the outputs to include expert advice for the Scottish Government, a more strategic approach to education and support to commercial bee farmers on disease control, bee health, management and honey production. 

British Farmers Association (BFA)

BFA continues work in all three areas here through our apprenticeship scheme, CPD events for existing members and our Knowledge Exchange Groups. 


Defra not releasing funding till the autumn for providing courses. An unofficial meeting suggested courses at intermediate level will be requested for England and Wales. The NDB, BBKA, BIBBA and individuals may well put in bids for the possible pot of money.

Two candidates passed the NDB written paper and they will be invited to be assessed at the Practical Day in July. If both pass this assessment they will be awarded the NDB certificate.


Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA)

Regular updates of Government policy passed to our members, such as updated policy on imports, Varroa registration, AFB outbreak etc.

Monthly magazine continues to provide advice and support for members.


Reviewed first draft of the HBHS review. 

Planned and edited an SBA article with new PhD student (Linnet, Aberdeen) to introduce her and the project to the Scottish beekeeping community. 

Working on DEFRA’s generic plant health Contingency plan which may be useful to policy colleagues while they work on updating the Scottish bee health generic contingency plan.

Scottish Government

The Bee Health team is producing a monthly feature for the SBA magazine. Items published so far in 2021 include:

  • February 2021 - article for the SBA Magazine: Brexit and Trade of Bees
  • March 2021 - article for the SBA Magazine: policy work
  • April 2021 - article for SBA: Symptoms of Foulbrood - Fiona Highet
  • May 2021 - article for the SBA: Get to know your bee inspector - Angus
  • April 2021 - guidance on Varroa reporting: Article for the SBA/email to beekeepers
  • June 2021 - article for the SBA Magazine: Meet the Policy Team

The policy team has also been working on the review of the honey bee health strategy 2010. The report will be circulated before the BHIP meeting or as soon as possible. 

Once the BHIP has had a chance to review the report it will be published and made public.

Following the publication of the 10 years review, we intend to ask the BHIP for their views on a consultation with the beekeeping community prior to the creation of the 2021 Honey Bee Health Strategy, both, for the hobby and commercial sector. This should direct our strategy for the next 10 years. 

Parliamentary Questions have been received and replied on the following topic:

  • AFB outbreak and control

BeeBase: We have initiated a review of the SLA existing with the NBU in terms of use of BeeBase by the Scottish Government. BeeBase is the NBU data base for beekeepers. Scottish Government contributes with an annual fee for the use of the data base. 

There are possible improvements in terms of representing the Scottish Bee Health Team and Scottish Beekeepers in a more significant manner. Currently there is a fully understandable emphasis on English and Welsh beekeepers and the NBU. 

British Farmers Association (BFA)

We continue to circulate timely information to members through direct contact, meetings and email. We also communication through the Bee Farmer magazine which is published six times a year. This is sent out to all members, but we also invite subscribers. This is not just a magazine about bees but bee in the business context.


It was agreed last year not to request a Train the Trainers course for Scotland this year. There was a suggestion that this course would be provided by the SBA hoping to continue to improve training in Scotland.

Surveillance, Diagnosis and Biosecurity

Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA)

Supporting SASA with their work researching Varroa-free areas across Scotland.


All SASA’s bee health diagnostic functions are now available following limited capacity last year. Staffing remains a significant issue but uptake has been light so far. 

After a slow start to the season EFB inspections are underway and busy. Bee inspection team doing a great job. Most EFB control beekeepers have sent samples into SASA, and after a small prompt the associated paperwork has been to a high standard, which the team are very grateful for.

EFB strain type report for 2020 has been published and shared with inspectors, policy, and a redacted version shared with science colleagues in NBU. SASA intend to analyse batches of samples as required during the season in 2021; this will not provide ‘real time’ results but will hopefully provide answers within the beekeeping season when new outbreaks are spotted. 

Import samples – good compliance with getting cages to SASA but volume received has been a little overwhelming. A significant representative sub-sample may be taken from very large consignments (>100 cages) where we can confirm that all cages and bees have come from the same producer/site in order to provide reports with no delay.

Attended BIC meeting on Asian Hornet – aimed at co-ordinating readiness and response to outbreaks. This will allow us to share and access key skills and knowledge between government departments more easily. 

We have not had time to commence any form of sentinel/surveillance work so far.

Varroa map update ongoing, work stalled due to conflicting work pressure. 

Also carrying out a small investigation into potential pathogens affecting non-honey bee pollinators. If anything interesting comes out of this we will report in the winter. 

Scottish Government

The bee inspection season had a really slow start due to the weather. Our intention was to initiate inspections from the 4th of May. However, due to the weather we were not able to organise inspections until the end of May. This will mean a shorter window for our inspections.

Our prioritisation and inspection strategy will also need to be balanced against the need to train a new cohort of bee inspectors.

AFB: As of today, 7th of June, we have 3 positive cases of AFB in Scotland in 2 different beekeepers, in 3 different apiaries. Two of the apiaries are in the Aberdeenshire area and the other one is in the Perthshire area. The team is working with both beekeepers and completing all the 3kms contacts for the three apiaries. The infected hives have been destroyed. 

BeeBase figures as of 07/06/2021

50 apiaries inspected: 

  • 3 apiaries infected with AFB
  • 15 apiaries infected with EFB.

19 Beekeepers inspected:

  • 2 positive for AFB
  • 9 positive for EFB

909 Colonies inspected:

  • 3 colonies positive for AFB
  • 25 colonies positive for EFB

We completed 1 post import inspection of Queen honey bees from Italy. 

We have provided support to beekeepers on compliance with new rules on post import checks, including sending queen cages and attendants to SASA. We are monitoring imports and compliance and so far compliance with post import rules appears to be satisfactory although some beekeepers have encountered issues with the use of IPAFFS and the update of paperwork. Figures on the number of imports for the UK and for Scotland are available on Beebase. 

We have taken part on the British and Irish Council Asian Hornet task. We are currently reviewing our Asian Hornet contingency plan and in discussion with Jersey Officials to carry out further training of Scottish Bee Inspectors on Asian Hornet Track and Trace to ensure that we have a sufficient, well trained pool of bee inspectors in the case of an incursion into Scotland. 

We have worked with SASA on Varroa reporting and EFB strain typing projects. 

We have been approached by the Food Standards Scotland regarding honey fraud and honey quality testing. We welcome FSS’ work and have offered to support them with any beekeeping and advice required. We will update the group on progress. 

British Farmers Association (BFA)

All members have a proactive approach to the subject. As you know this is part of our Code of Conduct.


Nothing to report.

Research and development

Scottish Beekeepers Association (SBA)

Advice and support given to ‘Honey Bee Watch’ – a COLOSS-based organisation looking to study feral and unmanaged colonies across Europe, piloting in the UK.


EFB – further work with BIOSS and molecular team to further validate the sub-clinical testing and consider other ways in which modelling could help with EFB control plans. Preliminary studies indicate that apiaries which have not been in contact with EFB are consistently ‘clear’ and therefore EFB is not endemic in Scotland. Where new cases of EFB are found not all colonies run a positive. Colonies in long-term infected businesses often show up as low levels of positive, even if from ‘clean’ apiaries. 

St Andrews PhD student (Luke) is writing up his thesis and planning an article on co-ordinated approach to Varroa control to effectively reduce DWV levels across apiaries (also available to provide short presentation- possibly at next BHIP or Varroa control group). 

Aberdeen PhD student (Linnet) has shared information via SBA magazine and project plans for 2021 work are well underway. 

FH has discussed and supported a project bid made by Roslin bee team, the outcome of which would benefit honey bee health in Scotland. Will await outcome of application and share further details if successful.

Have been approached by Roslin team regarding data-driven bee breeding programmes. This seems a bit hi-tec for Scottish beekeeping but will discuss after season is over. 

Scottish Government

We continue to work with SASA colleagues on possible research needs to improve honey bee health in Scotland. 
We have been collecting bee samples for SASA colleagues in order to study subclinical incidence of EFB and developing new testing methods which in our view are critical for our success on controlling EFB. 

British Farmers Association (BFA)

Many of our members provide expertise and bees for various projects.


Nothing to report.

End of report

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