Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes: December 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group held on 12 December 2023

Attendees and apologies


Fiona Highet, Scottish Government (SG) SASA, Senior Entomologist and Chairperson

Luis Molero, SG Animal Health and Welfare (AHW), Veterinary Advisor (Bee Health)  

Claire Gill, SGRPID, Bee Health Delivery Lead

Linsey Watt, SGAHW, Bee Health, Policy Officer

Matthew Richardson, Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, President and Bee Health Convener

Stephen Sunderland, Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, Vice President

Mairi Carnegie, SGSASA, Laboratory Manager

Murray McGregor, Bee Farmers’ Association, Scottish Representative

Paul Barton, Bee Farmers’ Association, Membership Services

Lorraine Johnston, SRUC, Bee Health Advisor


Paul Houston (DAERA)

Isaac Kwame Badu, PhD Student, The University of Edinburgh  


Nicola Kerr, SGAHW, Head of Bee Health Policy

Margaret Thomas, National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB), Member

Defra Policy Team

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting noting attendees/apologies as above. 

Role of the BHIP

The chair reminded the group that the main purpose of the BHIP is to implement, deliver and review progress of the actions as set out in the Honey Bee Health Strategy: Implementation Plan. As per the terms of reference, all core members of the BHIP are expected to contribute to at least one action per issue under the Implementation Plan. Therefore, all core members should ensure they have an action to complete.

The group discussed the current membership of the BHIP and if it was a fair representation of beekeeping in Scotland and whether there was a need for fresh ideas and opinions from new members. This could either be done by nomination or a request for volunteers from the beekeeping community. The following suggestions were made:

  • to bring in specialists for one-off meetings on a specific topic
  • it would be beneficial to reach people who have not engaged before for a fresh view point and new ideas, rather than the usual group of people. This will allow us to understand the issue of why some do not want to engage

It was agreed this should be put to the chair, the Head of Bee Health Policy for consideration. Meantime, Action: each member or each organisation to send a list of suggested individuals (either a specialist to join a single meeting or someone new to join the group who will bring fresh ideas) to the secretariat prior to the next meeting.

Previous minutes, review of actions and questions over reports sent by group members

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 31 August 2023 were agreed and accepted as an accurate record after the last meeting and subsequently published on the SG bee health web pages.

The outstanding action points from the previous meeting were updated as follows:

  • any members who have capacity to help with the review of the National Five in Beekeeping advised to speak to the Bee Health Advisor. Update: SRUC are interested in taking this on. Agreed to close
  • BeeBase inspection figures for England to be checked if they include the DASH programme. No update from the National Bee Unit (NBU). Agreed to keep open
  • meeting to be scheduled with members to specifically discuss and decide a strategy for EFB controls in Scotland. Update: Meeting with the BHIP in November was postponed to allow SG officials to have internal discussions to present the BHIP with something to initiate the review of EFB controls. A BHIP meeting to specifically discuss EFB will be scheduled in early 2024. Agreed to close
  • once the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (POMS) announce their survey, the group agreed to share this as widely as possible (e.g. using social media) and ask beekeepers to fill this in. Update: next survey will be in the Spring 2024. Agreed to keep open and discuss at the Spring meeting of the BHIP
  • when the genetic analysis has been completed in England in relation to their Asian hornet outbreaks, write an article for the SBA magazine summarising the findings. Update: results are due early 2024. Agreed to keep open
  • education plans and strategy to be circulated to the group for comment. Agreed to close –papers were circulated following the last meeting
  • SRUC to put together a curriculum for introduction to beekeeping courses for beginners before the next BHIP meeting in November. This should be circulated to the BHIP members for comment and then to the local associations for their feedback. Agreed to close as a paper on this was circulated to members on 11.12.2023 and there is an action on the agenda to discuss at this meeting
  • SG Policy team to ask the NBU for an update on the structure and an end of season summary ahead of the November meeting. No update from NBU. Agreed to keep open

There were no questions raised over the quarterly reports sent by the group. . The latest version of the Implementation Plan was updated with the information contained in members reports.

Updates relevant to the group from invited administrations

There were no updates from the other invited administrations on this occasion.

EFB Control Plan and Inspection Priorities 2024

The Bee Health Delivery Lead presented a slide show to members which covered inspection statistics for the season, good things which are in place, challenges with European Foulbrood (EFB) which have been identified, inspection priorities for 2024 and options and recommendations for the EFB Control Plan going forward. The following areas were highlighted and discussed:

Inspection statistics for 2023:

  • more colonies and apiaries were inspected than before due to having a better resourced team and EFB signatories in the control plan doing self-inspections. The same number of beekeepers were inspected as last year
  • there has been an increase in EFB in beekeepersAs EFB can take up to two years to develop in a colony, inspections were specifically targeted around infected apiaries from 2021. Other inspections were based on intelligence and risk analysis
  • there were fewer call outs from beekeepers suspecting disease and beekeepers are not identifying disease until the level of infection is high. As a result, some further work on education and reducing the stigma of finding disease may be required

EFB challenges in Scotland:

  • registration of beekeepers or apiaries is not compulsory and locations of apiaries are not kept up to date. A data cleansing exercise of BeeBase is underway where the delivery team are contacting beekeepers who have not been active for a long time to check if they still have bees. One check found of 100 beekeepers not active since 2016, only 24 still have bees. BeeBase is only an effective tool for identifying contacts with infected apiaries if the information is up to date

EFB Control Plan:

  • action: SG to update the EFB Control Plan for 2024 to clarify that there is a historic agreement in place with some of the signatories where they can use locations outside the control zone if particular requirements are in place, including clarification of areas out with the notional control zone where historical movement of businesses has occurred and is likely to continue

Inspection priorities for 2024:

  • two inspectors at one time will be sent to England to assist NBU colleagues with Asian hornet and be trained in track and trace. Consequently, there will be a reduced resource for notifiable disease inspections. The focus will be on callouts, follow-ups from prior infections and businesses identified as high priority for inspection

The Bee Health Delivery Lead asked the group for any comments they may have regarding the level of EFB controls required moving forward with the resources available. Following a general discussion, the following points were noted and will be discussed further at an EFB workshop for the BHIP in early 2024:

  • the group agreed eradication is not a realistic option
  • best practice is to destroy everything. However, this poses financial and practical challenges, especially for commercial businesses
  • government compensation is not an option
  • de-regulating EFB could cause it to spread further. EFB plus Varroa and other issues could affect the honey sector
  • it was agreed there is not enough known about the impact of EFB if it was to spread across Scotland. Many businesses are not concerned enough to take decisive action and seem to be able to co-exist with the disease
  • it was suggested looking into European nations who have de-regulated EFB and find out what the impact of that was
  • if there is no compensation, focus on the cost benefits of keeping on top of EFB for the whole industry. This type of information will ensure decisions are evidence driven
  • A paper on the evidence profile on European Foulbrood (EFB) was shared with the group. Whilst 10 years old, it contains facts and figures in relation to EFB. 

Action: Report to be produced on the economic impact of EFB in a business i.e. cost of control measures such as burning, shook swarm and impact on yield etc.

Action: SG Officials to try source information on the impact in European countries who have de-regulated EFB.

Action: SG Officials to finalise discussion paper on Scotland’s EFB Control Strategy and circulate to the group in advance of the EFB workshop.

Action from previous meeting: SRUC to put together a curriculum for introduction to beekeeping courses for beginners - presentation on education module.

A paper was circulated to members prior to the meeting containing a proposed curriculum for a standardised package for beginner courses relating to key messages in Scotland’s Honey Bee Health Strategy. 

The Bee Health Advisor introduced this item for discussion and asked the group for initial comments on the proposals. Comments included:

  • the format should focus on summarising key points and be succinct with details of where to seek further detailed information
  • the delivery format should be adaptable e.g. into webinars, posters or talks and presentations 
  • as directed at beginners, it was suggested it should be minimal and not cover Small Hive Beetle, Tropilaelaps or acarine to avoid overwhelming them. It would be more beneficial to include links to information to read and advice on who to talk to
  • it could also be useful to non-beginners as a reminder and should be accessible to all levels
  • key areas to cover are legal requirements, notifiable diseases, understanding the services available (SASA and the Honey Bee Health Team) and topics that generate issues such as location of apiaries and swarm
  • once approved, SRUC will start work to develop the package                                                                        

Action: All members to send comments/feedback on the draft curriculum direct to SRUC by 25 December 2023.

Discussion regarding next BHIP meeting

Date and meeting format

The group agreed that the quarterly meetings for 2024 will be scheduled on the second Tuesday of the month in which they are due to take place. The secretariat will issue calendar requests in due course. It was also agreed that meetings during the season would continue to be online and those out with the season be face-to-face where possible. 

Any Other Business

SG Policy provided an update to the group on both the BHIP Annual Report and the Asian hornet Contingency Plan for Scotland:

BHIP Annual Report - In 2022, the group agreed that its Steering Group meeting would be replaced by an annual report at the end of the calendar year detailing the groups progress for the Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland and the Head of the Rural Payments and Inspections Division. The BHIP Annual Report is drafted and will be circulated to members for comment in the coming weeks. The group agreed to revaluate this way of reporting in 2024. 

The Asian hornet Contingency Plan is near finalised. Ministerial sign-off will be sought early 2024 with plans to publish along with comms in the first quarter next year, which will require assistance from BHIP members to promote its launch.

It was agreed the BHIP will need to work as a partnership to raise awareness on how to spot and report an Asian hornet.  

Action: SG officials to discuss Asian hornet surveillance for 2024.

Confirm actions arising - actions and owners were agreed with each member having an action to complete before the next meeting.

The President of the SBA informed the group that the SBA are holding an education event in 2024. This will be a weekend of practical intermediate training for beekeepers. The SBA plan to request funding for this as it alleviates the work undertaken through the BHIP for Bee Health Days. It was agreed this should be a discussion point at the next meeting in terms of what is required from each partner.

The Senior Entomologist at SASA introduced a student to the group who is undertaking a PhD at the University of Edinburgh investigating ‘interactions of managed bees and wild pollinators in natural environments.’ The aim is to gather Scotland-relevant data on potential impact of beekeeping/managed bees to wild pollinators. This can be used to directly inform responsible beekeeping guidance, mitigations for bee farmers (if necessary) and policy. The PhD student will be contacting people to establish sites.


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