Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes: February 2022

Minutes of the meeting of the Bee Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP) on 28 February 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Luis Molero, Scottish Government (AHW), Lead Bee Inspector
  • Alison Knox, SG AHW – Bee Health Team, Policy Officer
  • Linsey Watt, SG AHW – Bee Health Team, Policy Officer
  • Fiona Highet, Scottish Government (SASA), Senior Entomologist 
  • Claire Gill, SG-RPID, Deputy LBI
  • Phil McAnespie, Scottish Beekeepers Association, President
  • Matthew Richardson, Scottish Beekeepers Association, Bee Health Convener
  • Margaret Thomas, NBD, Member
  • Alex Ellis, Bee Farmers Association, Membership Services
  • Jim Jeffrey, NatureScot (SNH)


  • Murray McGregor, Bee Farmers Association, Scottish Representative
  • Mairi Carnegie, Scottish Government (SASA), Lab Manager
  • Jackie Quigley, SG AHW – Admin Support
  • Graeme Sharpe, SRUC, Apiculture Specialist

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies 

Luis welcomed everyone to the meeting and apologies were noted as above.   

Alex confirmed the BFA are still recruiting to fill a vacancy and that he will attend any SG meetings planned in the near future. 

Previous minutes and review of actions (7th September 2021) 

Previous minutes were agreed with no amendments suggested/required. 

The “Outstanding Action log” was updated as per the information provided by BHIP members in their ‘progress of action points’ Report Template (the Action Log is attached as a separate document entitled ‘BHIP minutes – Action Log and Quarterly Report – February 2022’). 

Of particular interest was an update on Action Point 38 (re: SG Policy to confirm what import inspections have taken place): SG policy provided the following figures:

Northern Ireland colleagues have confirmed during 2021:

  • 77 consignments of honey bees from EU
  • comprising 7,721 queens and 1,350 packages (no consignments from outside the EU)
  • packages of bees destined for GB were inspected at the point of destination
  • majority of imports came from Italy, Hungary and Greece
  • NI’s target for inspection of Italian bees was 100% and bees from other countries is 30%

Phil highlighted that he’d been informed by a member of the Ulster Beekeeping Association that only 1 in 3 packages had been inspected. Luis confirmed that he would raise this at the next meeting with the other administrations. Alex confirmed the BFA are in support of pro-availability of imports which are above board and simple. 

Post-meeting update from Luis: following the four administrations meeting on 3rd March, colleagues from NI confirmed that they aimed to inspect 100% of Italian queens and 30% of queens from other countries. They confirmed that of the three consignments, only 1 was fully checked, the second consignment was not checked due to a managerial decision. In terms of the third consignment, NI inspected packages destined to stay in NI and the NBU confirmed that the majority of the other packages had been checked by the NBU at destination. 

Review terms of reference (ToR) for the BHIP/purpose of the group and of the meeting

Luis suggested this was a good time to remind ourselves of the purpose of the group. We should continue to make sure the ToR is relevant, up-to-date and clarifies the aim of the group and what we want to achieve. Moving forward, these meetings should focus on discussions on what actions we can take forward as a group to improve bee health. 

Action point 42:

  • group to review the ToR for the BHIP and send any comments to Alison/Linsey before our next meeting. Alison/Linsey to update list of members included in ToR on the SG web page

Update on re-structuring of the Bee Health Team

Luis advised the group that, due to Graeme currently being unavailable, a decision has been made with SRUC to advertise the post as a temporary position for 6 months. The scope of the role has changed to include more input in to the training/ mentoring of bee inspectors. It is also hoped the successful candidate will revitalise the Varroa Working Group with Matthew. Interviews are due to take place on Monday 7th March and more information will follow.  

Luis also provided an update on the 3 year project underway to re-establish a Bee Health Team in Scotland which will have a similar footprint to that of the NBU (but on a smaller scale). The team is currently made up of the policy team (Alison, Linsey), a delivery team: with 2 deputy LBI’s and 9 new bee inspectors. A week of training is planned for May where inspectors will have to pass an assessment carried out by SASA before being allowed to carry out inspections. 

Lastly, Luis told the group that he has been successful gaining promotion to Veterinary Advisor on a permanent basis. This will enable a proactive veterinary input into honey bee health. Luis will not have the same level of involvement in bee inspections and RPID have taken ownership of the delivery side. SG are still deciding if to replace Luis’ post with another Lead Bee Inspector or if to divide the role in two posts: policy and delivery. Luis will keep the group updated on any developments. Luis confirmed that he will still be helping the team until a decision is made on recruitment. 

Comments and questions over reports sent by group members

BFA report

Alex apologised for the brevity of the BFA quarterly report and confirmed that there has been work in terms of communication as several articles relating to Scotland have been published in the BFA magazine in the last few months.

SASA report

Luis asked Fiona if there was any update on the positive case of Fipronil poisoning. Fiona confirmed that, following investigation, there was no obvious root cause. There was a suggestion it may have been associated with kennels nearby and water the bees may have had access to.   

Phil noted from SASA’s report that there was a limited response rate to the Asian Hornet surveillance request put out to beekeepers in the September article in the SBA magazine and asked if there was anything the SBA could do to improve this. Fiona confirmed that this was really about raising awareness to look rather than report. However, noted an auditable trail would be good. 

SBA report

There were no questions. However, Phil confirmed the SBA have changed their compensation scheme to only recompense for frames and bees. 

Scottish Government report

Matthew queried whether there was any update on compulsory registration of beekeepers. Luis responded noting that the results from the recent survey showed the majority of participants were in favour of this. However, there was still a small section not in favour. Luis reiterated SG’s position of this matter and that it is something he feels is necessary, but ultimately the decision will need to be taken by the Scottish Ministers. As this is part of the Animal Health Regulation, the next step would be to work with SG’s legal team and to carry out a formal consultation as legislation would require to be changed in order to make it compulsory. Luis also confirmed this topic will be included in the new Honey Bee Health Strategy. 


NDB did not submit a report this quarter. However, Margaret gave a short update to the group where she confirmed training is ongoing and that there was a bid to FERA for funding. NDB will likely still run the training courses even if the bid is unsuccessful but it will mean a cost to the beekeeper.  


Jim did not provide an update but wished to note his thanks to Luis and Fiona for providing a concise update for the pollinator strategy annual update report. Jim advised that if anyone wants to see the report that is available on the NatureScot website. Luis confirmed that he is still keen to write an article on ethical beekeeping for NatureScot once time allows. 

Matthew remarked that ethical beekeeping is currently a very popular topic and the SBA would be happy to contribute to an article. 

Phil suggested making a talk / presentation available on the SBA website on ethical, responsible beekeeping, pollinators and the environment. Luis confirmed that this is something he wishes to touch on as part of the new strategy and highlighted that the bee health team now have a lot of material on this that could be shared with the SBA. 

Luis suggested the group could create a package to share with beekeeper associations to ensure their curriculum covers the topics mentioned above as well as swarm control and responsibilities to other beekeepers. Phil agreed this would be advantageous and also offered to arrange a webinar or if easier to record one. The group agreed that creating a training package should be one of the first actions of the new strategy. The SBA have been brainstorming issues around responsible beekeeping and Matthew shared a link to a mind map with a list of potential topics.

Action point 43:

  • Phil to arrange a webinar to deliver the training package (whilst this is something we would like to do,  given current resources, the timing may be delayed and taken forward when feasible)

Survey results and publication of the report

The draft analysis report containing the full results of the recent survey were circulated to the group prior to the meeting. Linsey presented slides to the group containing highlights from the results of the survey. Members were invited to comment and provide feedback. 

Matthew asked for more information on what participants said about imports. Linsey explained that results demonstrated a number of respondents wanted to see more restrictions or a ban on imports into Scotland with more focus on native bees. Luis commented that, in terms of imports, communication and education is key moving forward to ensure that any misunderstandings on the regulatory framework and the perspectives of others (e.g. commercial beekeepers) are taken into account. SG need to make it clear imports are subject to certification and risk assessments. Legal imports are better than a ban as this might result in illegal imports with no checks which is a higher risk. Additionally, further communication is needed to explain that areas such as pesticides are out of scope of the Bee Health Team however will be included and come under partnership working and communication with other parts of the govt in the new strategy. 

Fiona suggested that SASA could do an article for the SBA magazine on the journey of a queen cage from start to finish to help bring the process in to perspective for the average beekeeper. Luis also suggested an article on what checks are in place and why legal imports are safe. This will form part of the implementation plan of the new strategy. Phil noted that, for topics such as imports, a webinar would be better. 

On a separate note, Margaret commented that she had read the legislation on importation and found it complicated and suggested it should be made more user friendly. Alison shared a link to the Scottish Government guidance: Importing bees into Scotland: guidance.

Action point 44:

  • Margaret to review SG guidance on imports and provide feedback on whether this is easier to follow

Alex queried a response in the survey report where some respondents suggested there should be more work looking at the impact of large-scale beekeeping which can strip areas of bee forage to the detriment of other pollinators. Alex raised a concern that this information is opinions and not factual.  Following discussion (confirming that those who completed the survey were mainly hobbyists/non-beekeepers and therefore did not reflect opinions from all sectors (e.g. the commercial sector) it would be made clear in the final version of the survey report that the survey gathered the thoughts/views of a wide range of people and the results were not the view/policy of the SG. The information would however be taken into account when discussing the new strategy.

Phil commented that there is a need for our decision making to be based in facts and that evidence for Scotland is very limited. Fiona confirmed that SASA have a PhD student starting in the autumn to look at the potential conflict with managed hives and the impact on other bees. Fiona also shared a scientific report with the group which showed managed bees had an impact on other pollinators and the environment in France: Controlling the impact of the managed honeybee on wild bees in protected areas.

Matthew noted that it is important with surveys to publish what people said impartially without commenting. Comments should feature in a different report. Otherwise this will discourage people from completing surveys in future. Matthew suggested more numbers and rankings could be included in the report.

Luis and Fiona thanked Linsey and Alison for producing a comprehensive report in a short period of time. 

Action point 45:

  • Linsey to update survey report incorporating suggestions and then re-circulate the final version to the group for sight

Honey Bee Health Strategy 2022

A paper containing items for discussion on the new strategy was sent to the group prior to the meeting. Luis confirmed that there is a PfG commitment to publish the new strategy by June 2022. Luis proposed that the new strategy should be a short concise document but should set out how, as a group, we plan to improve bee health in Scotland. In addition, an implementation plan will be a ‘living document’ and detail the actions we plan to take forward. While this will initially be prepared by SG, it will be developed between all of us. Luis asked the group if they would be interested in having monthly meetings to progress the new strategy. 

Phil noted that he liked the idea of the strategy being a living document and that monthly meetings gives everyone the opportunity to implement any changes and deal with any issues timeously. 

Action point 46:

  • Alison to schedule monthly meetings to focus on the development of the new honey bee health strategy

The group discussed what set of words to use to describe the overall aim of the new strategy. Matthew suggested "Working in partnership to achieve a healthy and sustainable population of honey bees in Scotland (through communication, education, research and disease control)." The group were in support of this wording. 

Matthew also suggested putting the key aims at the start of the strategy. 

The group also agreed ‘outcomes’ was not the right word to use and to consider a different name for this. An outcome will be an aim that we want to achieve which will fall under specific pillar(s). 

The group also agreed to review the strategy within the 10 year period e.g. reviewing the implementation plan every 4 months and the full strategy every 4-5 years. Priorities should also be ordered in short, medium and long term. 

Next steps: SG Policy will put together the structure for the new strategy. 

Action point 47:

  • the group to send Luis, Alison and Linsey a list of the key issues they feel need addressed and put in the new strategy/ implementation plan


No other business was raised.

Luis welcomed the group to provide feedback or ideas on better ways of running these meetings.

Date of next meeting

Next quarterly meeting: Tuesday 17th May 2022



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

Back to top