Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes: August 2018

Minutes of the meeting of the Bee Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP) on 15 August 2018.

Attendees and apologies


  • Steve Sunderland, SG Lead Bee Inspector (Chair)
  • Fiona Highet, SG-SASA Entomology Manager
  • Graeme Sharpe, SRUC Apiculture Specialist
  • Gavin Ramsay, SBA Bee Health Convener
  • Margaret Ginman, BFA General Secretary
  • Alan Riach, SBA President
  • Murray McGregor, BFA
  • Jackie Quigley, SG Secretariat


  • Margaret Thomas, BFA 
  • Bron Wright, SBA 
  • Phil McAnespie, SBA

Items and actions

Item 1: Welcome and apologies

1.1 Steve welcomed everyone to the meeting.

1.2 Apologies received from Margaret Thomas, Bron Wright and Phil McAnespie.

1.3 Congratulated Fiona Highet on her MBE.

Item 2: Minutes and Actions Points (9 May 2018)

2.1 The minutes of the BHIP group meeting of 9 May 2018 were agreed.

2.2 Steve again stressed that this is a partnership and members shouldn’t need to wait for a formal meeting to raise issues. Remember 2009 and what happened then. Danger we could go back to pre-2009 if we take our eye off the ball.

2.3 Margaret Ginman spoke on Bee Vets Meeting at Chainbridge and BFA input into it re talk on DASH. Meeting scheduled for 7 November and Steve has been invited to give a presentation on our Scottish achievements.

2.4 Gavin Ramsay and Phil Tomlinson have prepared up to date record sheets which are now available as technical data sheet 12 on the learn section of SBA web site.

Items 3: Update on Inspections Programme

3.1 There have been 48 cases of EFB and zero cases of AFB in Scotland so far this year. There have been zero cases of Asian hornet recorded in Scotland this year so far but fast approaching time of season when detectable.

3.2 Steve and Fiona have been invited to an Asian hornet workshop on Jersey to see how they cope with Asian hornets there.

3.3 The Sentinel apiaries have been doing trappings for two weeks. Still to assess findings. Traps now on 20 sites and watching activity on ivy later in the season and working on raising awareness. Mentioned a paper on European hornet having deformed wing virus.

3.4 Where there has been an alert of Asian hornet the beekeepers have been asked to monitor and use traps to see what they can find.

3.5 Steve, John & Angus have been doing the inspections this year.

3.6 ACTION POINT - Poly hives clean or destroy with EFB strain type 3.

3.7 Murray made point that recent SBA magazine article on number of inspections carried out did not take into account professional bee farmers doing their own inspections. Marrying the two puts a completely different complexion on things. Alan mentioned that hobbyists do not know bee farmers do their own inspections so could be timely to do a piece for SBA magazine. Fiona says positives are in the system but do not have negatives in the counts at the moment.

3.8 AFB - none found. Fiona asked if this is because taken eye off the ball due to publicity around the Asian hornet. Steve believes the bee farmers are now acutely aware of what to look for plus the general policy of wax replacement could by default be clearing sub-clinical infections. Wonders how many winter losses are foulbroods that are never recorded.

3.9 Gavin mentioned that we should encourage people to look more closely at dead outs. Comments made that sometimes deadout boxes housed in winter then show positive tests for EFB when next used. Fiona finds it impossible to give advice on this and would need to do new research. Wood and bacteria is an issue even after blow torching. 

3.10 Murray commented that given the number he is dealing with getting a picture that does not correlate with conventional thinking. Coming to idea that EFB boxes should just be destroyed and so changing policy to no reuse of winter deadouts at all. Talked on minimising risk not eliminating it. Replacement is a small loss compared with loss of the colony. 

3.11 Talk about type 3 being harder to spot. Murray says that in his case it would be gone before you get the sample to the lab.

3.12 Re sub-clinical analysis of debris - Fiona says it is proving difficult because every sample different because of pollen, different propolis etc. So how do we get the best possible sample? Debris, larvae, honey, adult bees? Then add environmental conditions and forage possibilities.

3.13 Fiona talked on Swiss paper on types of EFB strains and the implications of the new EFB strain (type 3) in Scotland that is reputedly harder to control including by shook swarming. 

3.14 Alan - bleaching poly hives by immersing it is not practical advice for hobbyists. Murray maintains that there is a huge correlation between black bees and brood disease and 20 and 50 times more likely to have EFB. Whether it is clinical in black bees but sub clinical in non-black bees still to be proven but interesting observation. Another case of the more we find out the less we know.

Item 4: Updates


4.1 Basic beekeeping exams more and more schools asking for official qualification.

4.2 International Young Beekeepers went really well with some fine ambassadors and encouraging to note interest.

4.3 Supporting the Moray Beekeepers course.

4.4 Increasing the support to schools. Some schools are looking for SQA courses.

4.5 Highland Show went well with an average of over 8,000 people came through the door every day and honey almost sold out.


4.6 Mixed picture on harvest but generally speaking good or excellent. Still to assess heather situation.

4.7 There are apprenticeships in Scotland through the Scottish Bee Company.

4.8 Current Bee Farmer magazine carries an excellent article on manuka honey.

4.9 UK wide honey survey by CEH and encouraging good take up from beekeepers.

4.10 BFA open farm event for members awaiting finalised details.

4.11 Apprentices - first dropout but will reach 30 next year. Still more applicants than places and now working on adult training package. Strictly commercial.

4.12 Knowledge Exchange continues.

4.13 Note from EU - increase in apiculture budget of 70 per cent.

4.14 Establishment of an EU Bee Partnership headed by EFSA.


4.15 Bee Health & training days. Visits to organisations and bee groups.

4.16 Royal Highland Show went well.

4.17 Dealing with phone calls from public and beekeepers regarding dying bees etc.

4.18 Meet with Alex Ellis (BFA) from the Knowledge Exchange Group. Need to hold about four meetings with all the topics to be covered. Need interest from the bee farmers so they can have input in what they want. Propose hold seminars with a clear topics; OSR management, setting up a business, business models. Finance has been awarded to cover venue, speakers and catering.


4.19 Staff member is back from maternity leave resulting in more people available in the lab.

4.20 Student is looking at bumblebee diseases under pollinator strategy.

4.21 Will be doing talks over the winter period to Local Associations.

4.22 Samples – we are happy to see what’s coming in.

4.23 St Andrews University project still going ahead on the Isle of Arran.

4.24 Seeing little bit of resurgence of acarian - not too worried.

4.25 Some work being done on moving hives and the effect on native population. Lots of issues raised and too easy to generalise the arguments. Urged people to find arguments. Gavin said story of Dave Goulson and Colonsay is an interesting one.

4.26 Talked about Roslin work and Citizen Science. Murray seeing shiny bees in lots of hives but not causing hives to collapse through CBPV.

Item 5: Representing the interest of smaller beekeepers in Scotland


5.1 Representing the interests of smaller beekeepers in Scotland discussion on:

  • the implications of the new EFB strain in Scotland that is reputedly harder to control by Shook Swarming
  • the implications of three new commercial initiatives in eastern Scotland in terms of:
    1.     increased competition for forage and sites in an already crowded landscape
    2.     additional risk of imported disease
    3.     further impact on native biodiversity including the effect on the genetics of stocks kept by hobby beekeepers

5.2 Discussion:

  • a lot happening and beekeeping community needs to talk about it. Implications for bee health and resource. Talked about EFB strain but essentially an issue for the east of Scotland. Already competition for good sites amongst commercial apiaries arriving on places they have not been before. Encouraged all to engage with the issue
  • Murray doesn’t feel threatened. Inertia in bee industry people regard it like a bee museum - just because you have had bees there in the past you have a right to have them there forever but this is not so and beekeepers have a responsibility to act honourably in their individual situations. Talk to your growers and farmers. Exclusivity is desirable but you need to consider your host landkeeper. Most of the newcomers respect these issues and are doing what they should do
  • Steve confirmed that new operators are contacting him at an early stage and the Inspectorate are working with them positively.
  • questions raised about the actual apiary density but considered that there was still room for fresh operators. This was particularly when considering that some big operators over the years had either left or reduced in size. All industries change over time. Fiona reminded that the beekeeper density was available on BeeBase
  • some considered that in rural areas it wasn’t a significant problem but others recognised that e.g. for OSR there was already high competition for sites. Homework pays and one quoted that he had a list of 19 farmers in one area who wanted bees. In one area of Angus 25k acres of heather have had no bees for 20 years
  • Murray acknowledged that it was more risky to import bees on combs and he backed Gavin on this
  • Steve wondered if it was time for a comprehensive review of the EFB control plan to include results and achievements

Item 6: AOB

6.1 Request from Dunblane and Stirling Beekeepers for Bee Health Day confirmed for 1 June 2019. Discussed 2019 Bee Health Day and confirmed for Dunblane and Stirling for 1 June. Second event to be decided possibly SASA but that would possibly be too close to Stirling event.

Item 7: Date and Venue of next meeting

7.1 Next meeting will be the Honey bee Health Strategy meeting on 15 November 2018 at Battleby.



Bees Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP)
c/o Scottish Government
Saughton House
EH11 3XD

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