Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes: November 2022

Minutes of the meeting of the group on 15 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Raluca Herascu, Scottish Government (AHW), Bee Health Policy Lead and chairperson
  • Luis Molero, Scottish Government (AHW), Veterinary Advisor (Bee health)
  • Claire Gill, Scottish Government (RPID), Bee Health Delivery Lead
  • Alison Knox, Scottish Government (AHW), Bee Health, Senior Policy Officer
  • Linsey Watt, Scottish Government (AHW), Bee Health, Policy Officer
  • Fiona Highet, Scottish Government (SASA), Senior Entomologist
  • Mairi Carnegie, Scottish Government (SASA), Laboratory manager
  • Phil McAnespie, Scottish Beekeepers Association, President
  • Matthew Richardson, Scottish Beekeepers Association, Bee Health Convener
  • Alex Ellis, Bee Farmers Association, Membership services
  • Lorraine Johnston, SRUC, Bee Health Advisor
  • Margaret Thomas, NBD, member
  • Murray McGregor, Bee Farmers Association, Scottish representative
  • Jim Jeffrey, NatureScot

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

Raluca welcomed everyone to the first in-person meeting since Covid-19. All core and optional members were in attendance.

Colleagues from other administrations who dialled into the meeting had to leave due to issues with technology on the day. Apologies were sent to Belinda Phillipson (Defra), Kathleen Carroll (Welsh Government, Cristina Ruiz (National Bee Unit) and Susan Lee (DAERA) for any inconvenience caused. They were invited to send us any updates that they would like included in the minutes and these are attached in the section below ‘updates from invited administrations’.  

Previous minutes and review of actions (23 August 2022)

Previous minutes were agreed with no amendments required.

There was only one action from the last meeting in August: action point 53 – Luis to ask Nick Ambrose (Branch Head for Animal Health and Welfare) if he can facilitate the first annual review meeting. Raluca confirmed that this action should now be closed as Nick has agreed to facilitate the meeting.

Update on ways of working for the upcoming BHIP meetings

Linsey confirmed the updated version of the terms of reference for the group has been published and is now available on the Scottish Government bee health pages.

Linsey reported that the written quarterly report will be reintroduced for the next meeting. A new template has been developed (and agreed at this meeting) which focusses on the progress and delivery of specific actions allocated to each organisation for each of the key issues in the implementation plan.

In addition, the quarterly report will have a section to raise any new issues relating to honey bee health in Scotland and a section on additional topics for discussion. The report should be completed by core and optional members only and will be circulated three weeks prior to the meeting for completion to allow correct preparation of the meeting.

Update on the delivery side (bee health inspections)

The increase in the number of colonies inspected since 2019 was highlighted. Suspected reasons for this increase include having a larger team of inspectors, improved compliance with the European foulbrood (EFB) control plan, and better data capture from the business support team. The number of positive European foulbrood (EFB) and American foulbrood (AFB) colonies found this year was also discussed.

This year, the team inspected the highest number of beekeepers since 2019. AFB was found in six beekeepers this year, an increase from the previous year. The possible causes of this increase were discussed.

The importance of publicising AFB outbreaks to raise awareness among as many beekeepers as possible was noted as well as the potential use of social media. It was agreed that a good forum to also use would be Lorraine’s upcoming SRUC blog.

In 2022, 149 three-kilometre surveillance inspections were carried out. As a result of these surveillance inspections, six positive cases of foulbrood were found. Resource use was discussed. Luis highlighted the need to balance surveillance work with training and raising awareness of foulbrood diseases. Luis also suggested that rather than just evening talks, education initiatives could include showing beekeepers live diseases.

Fiona highlighted the potential use of subclinical samples. For example, subclinical samples from all apiaries within the 3km radius could first be taken. If the subclinical samples indicated the presence of disease, then a thorough inspection of these apiaries/ beekeepers could be undertaken.

Lorraine spoke to the group about her plans to potentially train members of local beekeeping associations to identify AFB and EFB. Such members could then act as ‘local disease experts’. The practicalities of this were discussed.

Phil spoke about the importance of beekeepers knowing the inspectorate and humanising the inspections process. It was noted that the team use the SBA magazine articles to raise awareness of the team and that inspectors have been attending local associations to interact and connect with beekeepers. Fiona also highlighted that most of the current bee inspectors joined during the Covid-19 pandemic and so were unable to visit local associations. It was agreed that in person visits was something that the team can continue to expand upon. It was also agreed that Lorraine will include some of the inspectors in her blog and talks.

Phil posed the question of how the group can reach people out with beekeeping organisations. Suggestions included engaging with companies that sell beekeeping equipment.

Luis confirmed that the development of the bee health team continues. This includes ensuring that the bee inspectorate is adequately resourced.

Claire confirmed that for next year, the team plan to gather statistics on the number of calls they handle. It was also confirmed that from next year, photographs of disease received will be followed up by an inspection or a request for a sample to be sent to SASA.

Luis informed the group that the team, guided by the BHIP, will also be discussing the future of the EFB control plan.

Murray noted the importance of commercial beekeepers understanding the costs and benefits of sterilising and culling a diseased colony.

He confirmed that he will write an article over the winter on the benefits of refreshment, using new equipment, culling of apiaries and the benefits of doing this in terms of costs. The difficulties surrounding disease eradication were also discussed.

Alex highlighted the fact that there are now more start-up commercial beekeeping operations and the opportunity that this presents in terms of education and outreach. The group agreed that it would be beneficial to target their education and outreach programmes to include this sector as well.

Implementation plan

Prior to the meeting each organisation was asked to come prepared to give an update on any progress made in the last quarter on the actions in the implementation plan, as well as any other issues they would like to see added to the plan.

The implementation plan was updated with the information provided by BHIP members.

The group decided to continue concentrating on the identified actions for the next quarter and highlight any other specific tasks which should be prioritised.

Annual review meeting

The group decided that, given the fact that   the new honey bee health strategy and implementation plan were introduced in June 2022, it would be more advantageous to produce an annual report and have an annual review meeting towards the end of 2023.

Updates relevant to the group from invited administrations

DEFRA: In 2022 the Defra bee health policy team worked to establish a new process for exports of honey bees as the certificates now must be signed by an official vet. They also provided input to the discussions about the future trading arrangements. Work has continued with the bee health advisory forum to deliver the actions under the healthy bees plan 2030. The Asian hornet contingency plan has been reviewed and updated. It will be published on BeeBase towards the end of the year. Kevin Beattie has left the bee health policy team and Shaun Cook joined the team in April 2022.

Discussions regarding next BHIP meeting

The group agreed that the next meeting should be held in-person and given that this format generates greater discussion, that the length of the meeting should be extended.

The group also agreed that the next meeting should be held in Edinburgh. The consensus was that face-to-face meetings should take place out with the beekeeping season and virtually during the beekeeping season.

Any other business 

Fiona informed the group of recently announced staff changes at SASA and the impact that this may have in terms of foulbrood testing resources. The potential use of EFB test kits was discussed.

Luis mentioned that training commercial beekeepers as part of the EFB control plan would be a priority for next season.

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