Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes: March 2018

Minutes of the meeting of the Bee Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP) on 13 March 2018.

Attendees and apologies


  • Steve Sunderland, SG Lead Bee Inspector (Chair)
  • Graeme Sharpe, SRUC Apiculture Specialist
  • Mairi Carnegie, SG-SASA Assistant Zoology Manager
  • Vicky O’Donnell, SG Secretariat
  • Jackie Quigley, SG Secretariat
  • Phil McAnespie, SBA Vice-President
  • Gavin Ramsay, SBA Bee Health Convener
  • Alan Riach, SBA President/Education Convener
  • Bron Wright, SBA Immediate Past President 
  • Margaret Ginman, BFA General Secretary
  • Margaret Thomas, BFA Representative


  • Fiona Highet, SASA
  • Murray McGregor, SBF Representative

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

1.1 Steve welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked Mairi for attending in Fiona’s absence. It was recorded that all good wishes be passed onto Fiona for a speedy recovery.

1.2 Apologies were received from Murray who will replace John Mellis as the Scottish Bee Farmers’ Association representative. A note of thanks to John will be issued by Steve thanking him for his efforts and participation in the Honey bee Health Strategy Groups over the years.

1.3 The merits of inviting Michelle Berry to the BHIP meetings were discussed and it was agreed that Alan would ask her if she would consider whether or not it would be useful to attend in the future. Alternatively, Michelle could be copied into the note of meetings.

Item 2: Minutes and action points from 27 September 2017 meeting

2.1 Minutes of the meeting were agreed.

2.2 Action point

  • 15 Jun 17 – Jun 01 Consider next steps for restocking measures. Closed. See action point Sept 04.      
  • 27 Sept 17 – Sep 01 SG website to be updated to include inspector contact details. Mairi to also check links on SASA website. Closed.
  • 27 Sept 17 – Sep 02 Review case highlighted by Gavin where suggestion of no follow up inspection on suspected disease case. Closed.
  • 27 Sept 17 – Sep 03 Photographs to be submitted to Fiona for inclusion in 5 point hygiene plan leaflet. None had been submitted. It was therefore agreed that the SASA catalogue should be able to provide sufficient images for the plan. SRUC also have a selection and BeeBase is also a good source. This will be taken forward by SASA. Closed
  • 27 Sept 17 – Sep 04 Options for restocking – arrange to assemble mixture of groups from local associations to gauge interest for next stage.  Gavin not yet made contact with Helen Nelson to take this forward. Noted that England are actively conducting a survey on restocking; Queen rearing also being considered by Newbattle Education Centre, South of Scotland Bee Unit and the Ulster Beekeepers also setting up a Queen rearing unit. 
  • Series of meetings with local groups around the country to gauge interest in restocking options did not go ahead; market research also showed little appetite for certification scheme.  
  • Alan and Gavin agreed to survey SBA members for interest in a Scottish Government scheme with an on cost of approximately £10 for a minimum inspection set of 8 colonies.
  • Action point Mar-01 AR/GR to survey SBA members on interest for SG scheme. Agreed this should be Closed for the time being. Revisit once outcomes from English survey are known.
  • 27 Sept 17 – Sep 05 SBA to submit questions for post-evaluation of be health day held in May 17. Gavin and Michelle will provide an aide memoir and Steve will conduct a ‘survey monkey’. Live.

Update from SASA

2.3 DNA analysis of Asian hornet (AH) confirmed a new incursion not directly related to the Tetbury case. There is a need to emphasise that AH continues to pose a risk and that it could enter the country from any point. Provides incentive needed to maintain levels of monitoring for AH.

2.4 Going forward in 2018 aim to look at same level of surveillance. Contact to be made with Sentinel Apiary volunteer beekeepers to determine if new instructions are needed for no-kill traps and if they need new traps. Looking for ideas on how to prevent user fatigue e.g. co-ordinate communications via social media. Suggestion was made that SBA could email members link to AH video at start of the season.

2.5 Comment made that the Asian hornet app as provided through NNSS is extremely useful; people should be encouraged to use it. 

2.6 SASA to produce content for a leaflet and pass to SBA for publication.

(Post meeting note: agreed poster produced by Non-Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) be sent to SBA to circulate to members, rather than SASA producing a new one).

Action point: Mar-02 Agreed that the Asian hornet leaflet produced by NNSS to be sent to SBA to circulate to members.

2.7 This year there is to be an increased emphasis on watching hives for “hawking” and the need to have a static network of traps.

2.8 EFB specimen sent to NBU confirmed DNA strain type 3 found in Dumfries is new to Scotland, previously only strains 1 and 18 had been identified. This new strain 3 is particularly virulent and is more common in England and Wales. It was noted that it is particularly unresponsive to shook swarm. Given its presence in the Dumfries area, it was agreed that Graeme Sharpe would relay this information as he was scheduled to meet the Dumfries beekeepers tomorrow March 14.  

2.9 5 point hygiene plan – see comments at Sept 03 action point above.

2.10 PhD student undertaking a project to identify disease in commercial bee farmers’ raised bumble bee boxes. This could also have implications for honey bees too.

Item 3: Plans for 2018 inspection programme

3.1 The inspection programme for 2018 is still subject to approval by Senior Management. Intention is to continue same as before and conduct whole country surveillance.

3.2 Aim to provide SASA with 60 bees and from hive floor inserts for analysis; however, a wider inspection can be achieved if using the bee ‘safari’ method which involves meeting up with beekeepers locally and visiting and checking a number of apiaries.

3.3 Ten honey samples from around Scotland scheduled to be collected under contract to VMD for analysis under the National Surveillance Scheme (NSS); all samples collected so far under NSS have been found to be clear. Steve explained that Food Standards Scotland inspectors also check in shops that there has been no contamination of honey entering the human food chain.

Items 4: Updates from SBA, BFA, SRUC


4.1 Feedback from SBA local associations confirm there is a big demand for beginner classes – as examples 50 attended in Fife and 40 attended in Edinburgh.

4.2 Education of beekeepers going well with the intermediate and advanced courses run by Moray Beekeepers with Tony Harris. More beekeepers therefore passing through the education system. This generates more mentors so local associations are able to provide help to people starting out.

4.3 Michelle Berry engaging with a lot of schools; with more and more interest from schools on the origin of food and SBA with the Royal Highland Education Trust participating in open farm days with local associations.

4.4  On 11 April a field day will take place at Oatridge College – general public and young people showing a lot of interest in this.

4.5 The International Meeting of Young Beekeepers will take place from 2 – 6 July 2018 at Nerac, (nr Bordeaux) France. A Scottish team of three young beekeepers and one reserve will be chosen, according to prescribed criteria and then mentored. In 2017 there was only one applicant. This year 17 names were put forward from Ayr, Edinburgh, Dunblane, East Kilbride, Tarland and from two school bee groups, Annan Academy and Kelso Academy.

4.6 SBA invited to attend ‘Food for Thought’ event at the Scottish Parliament.


4.7 BFA attended Scottish Pollinator Strategy workshop last November. BFA organised visit to Denmark for a fact finding mission including queen rearing and breeding takes place next week.

4.8 The apprenticeship scheme goes from strength to strength, so far 26 have enrolled on the three-year scheme and the first six have qualified – two with distinctions. Four will be qualifying in June. The rest qualify at intervals over the next three years. One apprentice in Scotland will start this month (March).

4.9 Intention to extend a scheme to help ex-servicemen and older age groups into beekeeping.

4.10 The BFA pilot scheme has now ended and members who took part, now have increased profits and production. It has proved to be a very valuable exchange of knowledge between the participants who had come from all sizes of bee farms. Knowledge gained was shared with members through The Bee Farmer magazine. It is hoped that funding will be secured to roll out Knowledge Transfer schemes across the country.

4.11 Collaborating with Professor Giles Budge on a Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus project.

4.12 Provision of honey samples to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology for a recent project to analyse forage across the UK.

4.13 Confirmation that John Mellis has stepped down as the Scottish Bee Farmers representative and that he has been replaced by Murray McGregor.

4.14 There is a rumour that 40 beehives stolen in Oxfordshire may be sold to amateur beekeepers in Scotland; request that Scottish beekeepers remain vigilant and look out for these distinctive hives. Pictures on social media provide images of the hives.


4.15 Lectures and talks around the country continue.

4.16 As commercial beekeeping sector in recent years (in Scotland) have become isolated from mainstream agriculture and most of the educational facilities open to others, this year, it is proposed to hold a series of four winter meetings to bring together the small number of Scottish commercial beekeepers that normally work in isolation, to improve marketing and business efficiency.

4.17 New machinery and automation, husbandry measures, stock selection, honey bee health, business planning and improving marketing, are all measures that would help make these businesses more resilient. Specialists and farmers could be invited to explain farm cropping rotations, pesticide use and integrated crop management to widen knowledge. Participants who attended the meetings would be encouraged to share experiences and trial different husbandry methods and share results.

4.18 Farm Advisory Service would fund the seminars/meetings and these would be delivered by the SAC Consulting part of SRUC. Aim to deliver the meetings between October 2018 and March 2019. Will engage with commercial beekeeping industry in Scotland to agree content of meetings and subject matter to drive the agendas.

4.19 Margaret suggested that someone from the BFA pilot scheme should attend the new group to share knowledge gained on how to run such a group and share this knowledge with a wider audience.

4.20 SRUC keen to see how trial BFA pilot (on Knowledge Transfer Initiative) had worked. Margaret volunteered to contact Graeme to discuss. (Post meeting note; Margaret confirmed that she had contacted Graeme).

4.21 Participated in the varroa project on Arran, as well as being involved in the Royal Highland Show, Bee Health Days, Scottish Government summer inspections and surveillance programme.

Scottish Native Honey Bee Society (SNHBS)

4.22 Gavin outlined the aims of the SNHBS and provided a brief update on their activities, which included a series of meetings and workshops on queen rearing and identification of honey bees.  

4.23 SNHBS, with help from the Morden Institute hope to launch a project on collecting good examples of Scottish honey bees for propagation. As there is already a good knowledge base of bees from Colonsay these are not proposed for inclusion.

4.24 The Society’s next meeting is on 17 March at Kinross.

Item 5: Bee Health Days 2018 & 2019


5.1 This year, two health awareness days have been confirmed for 19 May and 2  June at Dumfries and Tarland, Aberdeenshire respectively.

5.2 An advert for the Tarland event has gone out to local associations in the first instance; it is likely that the uptake will be high and therefore there may not be any need to advertise more widely.

5.3 This year payment will be by cheque only and probably a maximum of 35 attendees.

5.4 Format for the days will include the usual general introductions and presentations with four workshop practical sessions which this year for the first time will include a session on Asian hornet.

Format for the day:

  • two laboratory sessions (one on identification of foulbrood and the other on other conditions including Asian hornet) 
  • varroa session 
  • hive and apiary hygiene

5.5 Scottish Government, SASA, SRUC officials will be supported by Gavin and Margaret Thomas. Mairi requested assistance from a minimum of two inspectors to cover the foulbrood/frames session.


5.6 Dunblane and Stirling local associations are keen for health days to be conducted in their area and possibly Dumfries.

5.7 There was some discussion about hosting in the Caithness area e.g. Golspie given the relatively recent arrival  of varroa there; however, numbers might be low so consider a bee safari rather than a health day. 

Item 6: Royal Highland Show

6.1 Scottish Government will provide three people for each of the four days of the show. 

6.2 Promotional material for the Show to be updated - Margaret G. agreed to send Mairi the European Asian hornet poster so that SASA can take this forward.

(Post meeting note; confirmation received from Margaret that she had provided Mairi with a copy of the European AH poster).

Action point Mar-03 SASA to update material for RHS.

Item 7: AOB

7.1 Health Bee Plan for England is due for review in 2019; Scottish Government interested in this as the Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy 10 year lifespan is up in 2020. Consequently need to consider setting up sub-groups to take forward a new plan.

7.3 A consultation on the Future of Farming (England) has been launched. NFU and BFA looking at the various strands in this and the implications it may have with regard to bees.

Item 8: Date and venue of next meeting

8.1 This will take place on 9 May 2018 at Auchincruive, 10.30 for 11.00 start



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

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