Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes: May 2022

Minutes of the meeting of the Bee Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP) on 17 May 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Luis Molero, Scottish Government (AHW), Veterinary Advisor and Lead Bee Inspector
  • Nick Ambrose, Scottish Government (AHW), Branch Head 
  • Linsey Watt, Scottish Government (AHW), Bee Health Team, Policy Officer
  • Fiona Highet, Scottish Government (SASA), Senior Entomologist 
  • Mairi Carnegie, Scottish Government (SASA), Lab Manager
  • Phil McAnespie, Scottish Beekeepers Association, President
  • Alex Ellis, Bee Farmers Association, Membership Services
  • Margaret Thomas, NBD, member


  • Claire Gill, Scottish Government (RPID), Deputy LBI
  • Alison Knox, Scottish Government (AHW), Bee Health Team, Senior Policy Officer
  • Matthew Richardson, Scottish Beekeepers Association, Bee Health Convener 
  • Murray McGregor, Bee Farmers Association, Scottish Representative
  • Jim Jeffrey, NatureScot 
  • Lorraine Johnston, SRUC, Bee Advisor 

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies 

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

The group agreed that, due to being during the season, the next meeting in August will go ahead via Teams. However, the following meeting scheduled for 15th November will take place face-to-face. 

Previous minutes and review of actions (28th February 2022) 

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). 

Update on re-structuring of the Bee Health Team

Luis presented a slide to the group with the latest organigram of the SG Bee Inspectorate for 2022 which shows an increase in resource. Luis explained that this will be another transitional year and that a decision has been made to separate the delivery side from the policy side. The policy side are currently recruiting for a Bee Health Policy Lead. Interviews will be taking place shortly and Luis will provide an update on the successful candidate thereafter. This post will be temporary for 6 months to see how the new structure works. It is then hoped the post will become permanent. On the delivery side, Luis confirmed Claire Gill will be leading the team of 9 Bee Inspectors in the field. In terms of business support, Rose Huggett will be working closely with Claire to help with the organisation of inspections.  

Luis also noted that the recruitment of the new SRUC Bee Advisor has been completed and Lorraine Johnston takes up the role on a temporary basis for 6 months. It is hoped to make this permanent. Luis explained the role has changed from when Graeme Sharpe was in post and that Lorraine will be working closely with the delivery team on the training of Bee Inspectors, working with Matthew to revitalise the Varroa Working Group as well as providing education and training for Scottish Beekeepers. 

Luis emphasised that the Bee Health Team is one single team and that this should continue to be promoted and that there should not be distinctions made between SASA, SRUC etc. Everyone’s objectives are the same i.e. improve honey bee health in Scotland and to work in partnership to implement the Honey Bee Health Strategy. Mairi recommended some changes to the organigram to make it clearer that SASA is Scottish Government, which Luis agreed to amend. Phil suggested putting a copy of the organigram along with a brief summary in the SBA magazine. 

Action point 48: policy team to submit organigram of the SG Bee Inspectorate for 2022 for the SBA Magazine along with a summary and explanation that bee health is devolved in Scotland. 

Update on the delivery side (Bee Health Inspections)

As Claire Gill was out in the field, Luis provided an update. Inspections started the first week in May and then were halted by a full week of training for the whole bee health team (week commencing 9th May). Luis thanked the SBA for allowing Matthew to help with the training and the feedback from the Bee Inspectors on Matthew’s training was very positive. Inspections have been focussing on commercials in the EFB Control Plan and attending to calls from those who suspect they have EFB. 

Comments and questions over reports sent by group members

BFA report

Alex asked Luis if there was an update in relation to Scotland following Defra’s announcement that import controls due to start in July 2022 will not go ahead as planned. Luis explained that while bee health is a devolved matter, international trade is a reserved matter and we are dependent on the UK Government. Luis confirmed that it was the intention that bee imports would come through a Border Control Post (BCP) from July 2022, however the UK Government has decided not to implement the planned EU import controls on SPS goods in July 2022. Defra plan to issue a target operating model in autumn 2022 which will set out the new regime of border import controls, which the government aims to implement by the end of 2023. Meantime, the controls that were introduced in January 2021 will remain in place i.e. requirement to notify the import through IPAFFS, have an up-to-date health certificate, doesn’t need to come through a BCP but there will be some level of post-import checks as before and queen cages sent to SASA within 5 days of receipt. Luis also clarified that it continues to be legal to bring bees in via N. Ireland. Concerns have been raised with Scottish Ministers. Luis highlighted that a number of reports of illegal importation of honey bees by Scottish Beekeepers have been received. SG are investigating these reports and liaising with the FSS intelligence unit.  

Luis queried whether there was any update on recruiting a replacement for Margaret Ginman. Alex confirmed the BFA have commenced the recruitment phase and are proceeding to interviews.  

NDB report

Mairi noted that Margaret mentioned poor recognition of disease in colonies in her report and queried what we could do to improve this. Margaret felt it was important to see live comb rather than photos and that it would be advantageous to reinstate this where we can. The group discussed whether a Bee Health Day was the best way to educate beekeepers and if it would attract enough numbers. Fiona suggested holding the event at SASA (in the central belt) rather than a local association in order to attract those who were keen. Luis noted that the results from the recent survey showed participants were keen to attend a Bee Health Day and that this will form part of the implementation plan of the new strategy under education. 

Alex made the point that the BFA have had an influx of new members in Scotland who operate on a smaller scale (50 hives) and this could be an opportunity to target the smaller, less established commercial beekeepers on the difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK and how the EFB Control Plan is different to the DASH programme. Luis confirmed that he was aware more commercial beekeepers with different business models are appearing and is trying to compile a list so the bee inspectorate can start to build links, help them, and arrange bee health days for them to allow them to engage with other beekeepers with a similar business and level of experience. Luis also noted that commercial beekeepers are a priority in terms of training as at times, might provide training to other beekeepers, sell bees, and have a larger footprint which increases their value for surveillance of notifiable diseases. Alex also suggested an article in the BFA magazine on the difference between the EFB Control Plan and the DASH programme. 

The group discussed the possibility of expanding the EFB control plan, in order to allow self-reporting, to these new commercial bee farmers. We agreed that this was a key difference with DASH. The EFB control plan only applies to commercial beekeepers within the notional infection zone, with which the SG Bee Health Team have confidence, through years of engagement and certification program, of their ability to recognise disease, biosecurity practices and adherence to the rules of the EFB control plan. 

Action point 49: policy team to include a Bee Health Day for this year or next year for new commercial beekeepers in the implementation plan. 

SBA report 

Phil highlighted that SBA members are being inundated with phone calls about tree bumblebees and that it is difficult to speak to someone from the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust (BBCT). Phil highlighted that there was a risk that beekeepers might stop attending swarm calls due to the number of confusions between honey bees and tree bumble bees’ nests. Fiona mentioned that she has contacts in the trust and will set up a contact with the SBA to improve signposting to advise people when to contact a beekeeper, and when not to.

Action point 50: Fiona to set up Phil with a contact at the BBCT. Phil and Jim to work with the BBCT to improve advice and signposting for the public on tree bumblebees to relieve some of the pressure on SBA members. 

Phil also mentioned that he was called out to a swarm by SRUC and was asked for insurance and a risk assessment prior to attending to the swarm. This meant making 2 or 3 trips at a cost and with a risk the swarm could be gone by the next day. Nick suggested the SBA, as a registered charity, could suggest donations for collecting swarms. Fiona suggested the SBA may benefit from some training from a risk assessor. The risk assessor may also be able to provide some templates.  

Action point 51: Fiona to speak to the Health and Safety Office in SASA to see if they can provide any names of risk assessors who can provide training for the SBA. 

Scottish Government report

Luis wished to highlight to the group that a decision was made not to launch the new Honey Bee Health Strategy or to have a presence in the bee tent at the Royal Highland show this year. This is due to factors such as the restructuring of the team, focussing on training our new bee inspectors and our commitment to have the strategy published by June 2022. SASA are also busy and cannot attend. Luis emphasised this was not a decision taken lightly and that he hopes we will have the opportunity to attend the bee tent and interact with beekeepers next year. Next year the team will have more time to prepare and can have a professional presence. Phil noted that, while the presence of the Bee Health Team will be missed, this was understandable and the SBA looks forward to the team attending next tear. 

SASA report

Fiona confirmed Mairi and Hanna will be hosting all samples that come in to the lab this summer. A new start will hopefully receive some training and be able to provide extra support. Unfortunately the recent bid for a PhD student was unsuccessful. However, another bid will be submitted next year. Meantime, Fiona is in contact with a student from Bristol University who is studying competition in the heather in Scotland and will wait to see if any outcomes from this project are helpful to us. 

Luis asked Fiona if it was possible to get a clear report on samples already taken for subclinical testing so we can discuss how we’ll use this and figure out costs. Fiona confirmed she could put a report together. 

Phil commented that there is a lot of emphasis on science and disease but queried if there is any money available to look at the quality of Scottish honey. Luis noted that this is a complex issue, there are issues with fraud and it will be an issue for beekeepers and the BFA to remote their products. Alex also remarked that there isn’t resource for a legal challenge so probably best not to push this.  

Honey Bee Health Strategy 2022 update

Linsey provided an update to the group on the progress of the strategy and implementation plan. It was noted that this is progressing well and the latest draft was circulated by email to the group by Alison on 16th May. Linsey thanked the members for their contribution and invaluable input so far. 

Linsey highlighted that we are still waiting on some member statements and would be most grateful if these could be sent in when possible. 

Policy will be working on the ministerial forward and arranging this with the Ministerial Private Office. Also, Alison has contacted SASA’s photographic unit for appropriate photos for the front cover. 

In terms of the implementation plan, Linsey explained that the cross-cutting boxes have been removed from tables in order to make them more accessible and easier to follow. However, when actions are completed, reference will be made then as to how issues cut across the different pillars.  

The group agreed timescales describing the meaning of short/medium/longer term. Short: 4 months, Medium: One calendar year from when first raised. Longer: Beyond one calendar year. 

Linsey asked the group to feedback their thoughts/suggestion on the wording for the section on the interaction with other pollinators and the section on additional issues and longer term goals. 

The group agreed a deadline of close of play on Friday 27th May for members to provide their member statements and any feedback/comments on the latest draft. 

Varroa Working Group 

Luis pointed out Varroa is a top priority for the vast majority of beekeepers in terms of bee health. With Lorraine now in place as the new Bee Advisor, the Varroa Working Group can be revitalised with an aim of starting to make some progress updating guidance specifically tailored to Scottish beekeepers. Also, to address issues such as legal and effective medicine usage, disposal and honey residues. Phil mentioned that Matthew produced an article for the SBA magazine on Varroa and VMD approved treatments. 

Luis also mentioned that Bee Inspectors will now be carrying copies of medicine record forms to issue to beekeepers and reminding beekeepers that they are producing food and therefore have a requirement to keep records for five years. Luis asked for support of the BHIP members to continue to push this important message.  

Discussion on who to invite to future meetings

Luis referred to the terms of reference for the BHIP and ensuring that we have the right people as part of the group. The group discussed different options and potential people that could be invited to join the group as either permanent members, silent observers or to make guest appearances on specific topics.

It was agreed that we would invite DEFRA/WG/NI and the NBU as observers. 

It was agreed it would be useful to have Scottish Government colleagues from Agri-Environment Policy attend part of a meeting. They issue grants to farmers for planting for pollinators and bio-diversity and members could have something prepared to discuss how planting affects bees/beekeepers. 

Fiona also provided details for an agronomist who has been involved in quite a lot of pollinator strip and other trial work and may be a useful addition to a future meeting. 

Action point 52: policy team to put together suggestions of who to invite to future meetings and send to members for their consent.  


No other business was raised.

Luis mentioned that the quarterly meetings will change following the launch of the new strategy and implementation plan with more focus on the actions.  

Luis also welcomed the group to provide feedback or ideas on best ways to work these meetings.

Date of next meeting

Next quarterly meeting: Tuesday 23rd August 2022.


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