Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes: May 2023

Minutes of the meeting held on 9 May 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Nicola Kerr, Scottish Government (SG) Animal Health and Welfare (AHW), Head of Bee Health Policy and Chairperson
  • Alison Knox, SGAHW, Bee Health, Senior Policy Officer
  • Linsey Watt, SGAHW, Bee Health, Policy Officer
  • Matthew Richardson, Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, President and Bee Health Convener
  • Alex Ellis, Bee Farmers’ Association, Membership Services
  • Fiona Highet, SGSASA, Senior Entomologist
  • Mairi Carnegie, SGSASA, Laboratory Manager
  • Claire Gill, SGRPID, Bee Health Delivery Lead
  • Margaret Thomas, National Diploma in Beekeeping (NDB), Member
  • Lorraine Johnston, SRUC, Bee Health Advisor
  • Shaun Cook, Defra


  • Luis Molero, SGAHW, Veterinary Advisor (Bee Health)
  • Murray McGregor, Bee Farmers’ Association, Scottish Representative
  • Jim Jeffrey, NatureScot
  • Kathleen Carroll, Welsh Government
  • Fiona McKenna (DAERA)

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

Nicola Kerr welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced herself to the group having recently taken on the role of Head of Bee Health Policy.

Matthew Richardson confirmed that he will be undertaking two roles for now: President and Bee Health Convener for the SBA. It was also noted that Steve Sunderland is now Vice President for the SBA and may attend these meetings in the future.

Attendees/apologies were noted as above.

Previous minutes and review of actions (14 February 2023)

Previous minutes were agreed with no amendments required.

There were three action points from the previous meeting:

Action 1:a copy of the Varroa Working Groups Terms of Reference (ToR) will be circulated to BHIP members for information. A copy of the ToR was circulated to the group shortly after the last meeting. It was agreed that this action can now be closed

Action 2: any members who have capacity to help with the review of the National Five in Beekeeping were asked to speak to Lorraine. If anyone has capacity, please contact Lorraine direct. Agreed to keep open

Action 3: the SG Policy team agreed to collate ideas from members about speakers and agenda items which could be included in future meetings. Any suggestions should be sent to the Policy team. The group agreed to close this as an open action but noted that suggestions for topics and speakers were always welcome

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

Varroa Working Group (VWG):

One of the main issues the VWG have been looking at is the use and misuse of Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) approved medicines. A list of questions has been sent to the VMD from the group with the hope that they will either respond in writing or agree to attend the VWG to discuss.

The next meeting of the VWG will focus on education as the general advice currently available does not focus on Scotland. SRUC are prioritising the development of a Scottish-specific Varroa training package and this work will tap into the VWG. It is hoped this advice will be available by the summer.

Varroa mapping exercise

There is an action to complete the mapping exercise of the current Varroa distribution in Scotland and SASA and RPID are taking forward production of a poster to be displayed at the Royal Highland Show. Once the map is complete, a communication plan will be put in place for the beekeeping sector.

New issues and challenges to be added to the implementation plan

Nicola Kerr asked the group if there were any new issues that should be added to the implementation plan. The group agreed that the current actions are comprehensive enough and have a considerable workload.

Nicola Kerr noted there are currently gaps in the implementation plan where there is no update/status. Whilst some of these have been agreed to be parked for the time being, this needs to be clear for people reading the plan. The plan will be updated prior to the next meeting with more comprehensive information, i.e. if an action is yet to be taken forward, the reason for this and a timescale provided. The Group noted that the intention is to discuss the Plan more comprehensively at the next BHIP.

Priorities for the next quarter

The current work should continue to be progressed with updates being given to the BHIP when appropriate. The group agreed to think about areas of education to focus on for next year.

Updates relevant to the group from invited administrations

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

Additional topics for discussion raised for discussion 

Bee health days

  • there are two training days scheduled for June 2023; one for hobbyists, which has a full complement of attendees and another for the commercial sector, which is currently undersubscribed. The commercial day will be split, with the first part being focussed on training and education and the second an opportunity to engage with SG officials on how to tackle issues facing the sector. It was noted that the timing of the event may be the issue in terms of attendance given Spring is a busy time for commercial businesses. The BFA have advertised this event in their magazine and recently issued reminders to their members. However, it was mentioned that if numbers are low, the event may be cancelled/rescheduled to another date. It was agreed that a review should take place on what the purpose of these training days are (i.e. if disease recognition better at start of season) and when is the best time of year to deliver them

Royal Highland Show

  • due to lack of resource, it was confirmed that there will be no SG officials in attendance at the RHS this year. However, as this is a good platform to raise awareness of issues, SG and SASA will provide the SBA with resources such as informative banners, posters, and models, including materials for Varroa and Asian hornet, which they will incorporate in to their stand in the Honey tent. Lorraine will be in attendance on the Thursday and Friday


(SRUC focus)

Lorraine Johnston (SRUC) asked the group for feedback and suggestions on what areas to focus on. Beekeepers have asked for talks on chronic bee paralysis virus, shook swarms and Asian hornet.

Lorraine is planning more webinars and podcasts with the next podcast concentrating on swarming. Suggestions from the group included:

  • issuing a survey to association members to ask them for suggestions and to identify educational gaps
  • practical demonstrations at association apiaries
  • an introduction to beekeeping course specifically targeted at people thinking about getting into beekeeping such as members of the public who are not part of an association
  • it was also mentioned that the annual report completed by SRUC should show what topics have been covered in that year. If this is shared with the BHIP, then the group can easily identify any gaps and decide.
  • the group agreed that an introduction to beekeeping course should be on the curriculum for trainingLorraine to produce a proposed communication approach on how she will take this forward before the next BHIP meeting

(In schools)

Lorraine Johnston (SRUC) informed the group that concerns were raised at the SBA Conference about schools taking up beekeeping, specifically about lack of experienced teachers, bad practice and the SQA not properly overseeing this resulting in potential animal welfare issues. Suggestions to tackle this included:

  • producing a best practice guide and sharing best practice e.g. arranging an event
  • writing to the SQA to raise concerns and suggest that there needs to be a more formal system in place, such as funding a beekeeping teaching post or an external beekeeper

Stakeholder engagement

Nicola Kerr introduced this item for discussion for the group to consider how we reach as much of the sector as possible (hobbyist, commercial, educationalists etc) to provide information on what we do and how we can help. The following areas were highlighted and discussed:

  • it was noted that those who are not involved with, or are members of,  associations are the hardest to reach. Compulsory registration would provide a route for official communication with these beekeepers
  • educational days targeted at beekeepers who are not active members of associations was proposed Putting flyers in garden centres, village stores and suppliers of beekeeping products was suggested to reach this group of beekeepers
  • encourage local beekeeping associations to let non-members attend events for free
  • give talks to local gardening groups
  • a large demographic of beekeepers who are not engaged with an association are getting their information on beekeeping from the internet and social media on beekeeping. It was suggested we try to tap into social media experts who have a large following and ask them to put messaging out for us or hire someone famous to be our face/representative . A further suggestion was that we have a separate website from SG and SASA where people can access information and podcasts. Although it was acknowledged that this would be difficult to fund and maintain
  • it was recognised by the group that we need to think more radically about this topic. Whilst there are a host of places to seek information, the information needs to be reliable, based on up-to-date scientific evidence, government approved and trusted information. Thought needs to be put into what we want to communicate. The group agreed that we should have a communication plan with a coherent focus to try to develop this. This should factor in what is possible with what we have capacity and resource to deliver. Lorraine was asked to pull something together for discussion at the next meeting

Discussion regarding next BHIP meeting

Date and meeting format - the next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 8 August, however, as it was agreed that the meeting will be held in-person and bearing in mind that the season is still in full swing, the group indicated that they were agreeable to the date being pushed back. It was agreed that the next meeting will focus on the review of the implementation plan, and the proposals for education and communication.

Any other business

Fiona Highet shared with the group the news that SASA has a PhD student starting in Autumn 2023 to investigate interactions of managed and wild pollinators in natural environments.

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