Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes: February 2023

Minutes of the meeting held on 14 February 2023.

Attendees and apologies

In person

  • Raluca Herascu, Scottish Government (SG) Animal Health and Welfare (AHW), Bee Health Policy Lead and Chairperson
  • Alastair Douglas, SGAHW, Disease Control Branch
  • Alison Knox, SGAHW, Bee Health, Senior Policy Officer
  • Jackie Quigley, SGAHW, Bee Health team
  • Lorraine Johnston, SRUC, Bee Health Advisor
  • Phil McAnespie, Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, President
  • Alex Ellis, Bee Farmers’ Association, Membership Services
  • Murray McGregor, Bee Farmers’ Association, Scottish Representative


  • Fiona Highet, SGSASA, Senior Entomologist
  • Mairi Carnegie, SGSASA, Laboratory Manager
  • Claire Gill, SGRPID, Bee Health Delivery Lead
  • Matthew Richardson, Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, Bee Health Convener
  • Margaret Thomas, National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB), Member
  • Jim Jeffrey, NatureScot
  • Shaun Cook, Defra
  • Julian Parker, NBU
  • Kathleen Carroll, Welsh Government
  • Diane Stevenson, DAERA


  • Belinda Phillipson (Defra)
  • Cristina Ruiz (NBU)
  • Linsey Watt, SGAHW, Bee Health, Policy Officer
  • Luis Molero, SGAHW, Veterinary Advisor (Bee Health)

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

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

Alastair Douglas introduced himself as the Branch Head for the Animal Health and Welfare Disease Control team who has temporary responsibility for looking after honey bee health.

Previous minutes and review of actions (15 November 2022)

  • previous minutes were agreed with no amendments required. It was noted that any outstanding actions had been amalgamated into the implementation plan of the honey bee health strategy

Implementation plan

The latest version of the implementation plan was updated following the discussions that took place. In addition, the following was discussed:  

Varroa controls in Scotland

Phil McAnespie welcomed the re-introduction of the Varroa Working Group (VWG) and highlighted the particular issue for the requirement of clear instructions being included with Varroa treatments. It was confirmed that the VWG would look into this. It was also confirmed that the VWG would explore issues such as:

  • issuing information and guidance on the treatments that would work best in particular locations and at particular temperatures

  • the use of different dosages in different circumstances, seeking advice from the BFA in relation to the practices and treatment that are used on a larger commercial scale and

  • the availability of products

The group acknowledged the difficulties faced by wholesalers. The UK market is a relatively small market from the perspective of treatment manufacturers. There is the question of whether the amount of outlay that would be required to amend current practices is feasible in financial terms. 

A copy of the Varroa Working Groups Terms of Reference will be circulated to BHIP members for information.

EFB control

Scottish Government officials informed the group that the current EFB control plan (published in 2020) will continue to be used for the coming beekeeping season but on the understanding that a review of the document will be progressed over the coming months. The information gathered and lessons learnt from this upcoming season will guide the way forward for the 2024 season and beyond. Alison Knox will be in contact with interested parties to request completion of a questionnaire as part of an information gathering exercise (e.g. asking how the current plan is working, what amendments and improvements are required etc.).

Interaction of honey bees with the environment and other pollinators

NatureScot, SRUC and SASA continue to encourage promotion and engagement with this issue during their talks and presentations.

Additional issues and long term goals

Action 1.3: Phil McAnespie gave an update from the SBA regarding the Magentrix system. Following an initial delay, there has been a change in staffing which has ensured that this work is now being taken forward and programmes are currently being made up for inclusion on the system. It is hoped that the system will be up and running in approximately two to three months from now.

Action 3.2: Raluca Herascu asked the group for any comments they may have regarding their experience on using BeeBase. Following a general discussion, the following points were noted and will be taken back for internal discussions:

  • whether there is a facility on Beebase that automatically confirms the status of an apiary following a set period of time? The current status of an apiary is important as it is an extremely useful tool for commercial beekeepers to ensure that areas are not overloaded with hives which would result in competition for foraging. It was also noted that the historical data is also important for disease control

  • whether there is scope in BeeBase to determine the number of hives in an area in addition to the number of apiaries. This information would be useful for commercial beekeepers to ensure that areas did not have an unnecessary high hive density level

  • whether beekeepers should be incentivised to register on BeeBase and ensure that they update their records at least on an annual basis  

Action 4.2: It was noted that throughout the meeting a number of discussions spoke of legislative issues and in particular compulsory legislation. Alastair Douglas stated that there may be some similarities with other registers which policy colleagues will keep in mind when developing this piece of work. 

New issues and priorities for the next quarter

Raluca Herascu asked the group if there were any issues that should be added to the Implementation Plan at this stage. The group agreed that the current tasks and projects are of high priority and have a considerable workload. Therefore, the current work should continue to be progressed with updates being given to the BHIP when appropriate. 

Updates relevant to the group from invited administrations

The Welsh Government informed the group that their Asian Hornet contingency plan had recently been updated and could be accessed on BeeBase.

DAERA colleagues stated that the Northern Irish bee health plan had recently been updated and work continued as to how inspections will be done for imports coming into Northern Ireland from the EU (particularly from Italy). 

Additional topics raised for discussion

Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN)

  • colleagues from SG AHW Disease Control Team presented to the group slides highlighting the finalisation for a consultation on Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) which is due for publication shortly

  • FPNs may be used for certain animal health offences and can include bee offences under the Bees Act 1980 (or an order made under that Act). As such, FPNs could also be used for certain offences under The Bee Diseases and Pests Control (Scotland) Order 2007 (as amended))

  • the consultation will also include information as to when referrals could be made to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (CPOFS)

  • Raluca Herascu encouraged all to engage with the consultation when it goes live on ‘Citizen Space’

Bee health days

  • two dates have now been identified for holding this year’s re-instated bee health days. The first date (Thursday 1st June 2023) will be focussed on the commercial sector and the SG Policy team will arrange advertising of the events in the coming weeks. It is hope that the event will take place in the Perth area. The second date (Saturday 17th June 2023) will focus on the hobbyist sector and will be held in the Glasgow area  

  • as in previous years, members of the BHIP have agreed to be involved in tutoring on each of the days. Subjects covered will include: Varroa management, brood disease recognition, invasive pests and shook swarming

Varroa and the islands

This subject has recently had a number of queries and SG were interested in hearing what BHIP members saw as the main issues affecting the islands. The following areas were highlighted and will be discussed further over the coming months:

  • it is important to establish the Varroa status for certain areas to enable responsible sourcing of bees. For example, commercial operations may not want to supply bees which may have Varroa to a location which may actually be Varroa free
  • how can Varroa free status be established
  • more in-depth questions need to be asked, for example, where could new stock on a ‘Varroa free area’ be purchased from 
  • does the Scottish Government have the capacity to progress new legislation which would designate an area as being Varroa free
  • where would the funds to support any necessary fact-finding and surveillance work to establish that any particular area is indeed varroa free come from
  • would the Scottish Government have the ability to enforce any new legislative requirements
  • would the introduction of compulsory registration have an effect on the designation of Varroa free areas
  • is there unity throughout the whole beekeeping community of each area which is requesting Varroa free status? Is there a commitment from all beekeepers that they could investigate voluntary measures which could be put in place in the meantime, and before any legislation is introduced
  • the ask from the beekeeping sector needs to be clear – e.g. is the whole community on board with the designation of a Varroa free status
  • what voluntary measures have been made in preparation for the designation of a Varroa free status? e.g. Have local councils been approached for help
  • are beekeepers from the islands asking for Varroa free status from a Varroa or a genetics perspective
  • have all beekeepers on a specific island committed to responsible sourcing Varroa free bees
  • what role can education play
    • Lorraine Johnston (SRUC) is looking at the possibility of some funding via the Farm Advisory Service (FAS) to host responsible beekeeping events in the highlands and islands
    • education campaigns focus on encourage the public to consider where their bees will be sourced from if they are moving into an island area
    • advertising campaigns could be carried out at places such as ports, as well as advertising in relevant publications. The messaging could be that there are still Varroa free areas and that members of the public should consult with BeeBase prior to selling and buying bees. The messaging could also encourage sellers to be ethical when selling bees to a specific area. Pictures could also be used, such as those of drones with deformed wings
  • could bee suppliers be approached and encouraged not to sell to areas with a Varroa free status
  • has there ever been any feral bee colonies sighted on the islands

Discussion regarding next BHIP meeting

Date and meeting format - the next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 9th May. As this will be at the start of the beekeeping season it was agreed that the meeting will be held via Teams. 

Any other business

  • education – Lorraine Johnston (SRUC) informed the group that there is currently a review of the National Five, with a stronger focus on bee health. Any members who have the capacity to help with this are of work were asked to speak with Lorraine     

  • communication – the group agreed on the importance of keeping open and honest communication in the BHIP meetings, by engaging in honest discussions and debates. This led to a discussion on the membership of the BHIP. The group agreed to suggest what individuals and organisations (e.g. natural beekeepers, genetic experts, environmental organisations, etc.) could be approached to attend future meetings. The SG Policy team agreed to collate these ideas and to look into how future meetings could contain agenda items which would include attendees from various external organisations

  • Raluca Herascu informed the group that this would be her last BHIP meeting as chair as she will be moving post in March

  • Phil McAnespie also stated that this would be his last meeting as the President of the SBA as he would behanding the reigns to Matthew Richardson in the coming months

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