Bee Health Improvement Partnership minutes: September 2021

Minutes of the meeting of the Bee Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP) on 7 September 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Luis Molero, SG, Lead Bee Inspector
  • Fiona Highet, SG-SASAy, Senior Entomologist
  • Alison Knox, SG, Senior Bee Policy Officer
  • Linsey Watt, SG, Bee Policy Officer
  • Matthew Richardson, SBA, Bee Health and Science Trustee
  • Phil McAnespie, SBA, President
  • Margaret Ginman, BFA, General Secretary
  • Margaret Thomas, NDB    
  • Claire Gill, SG- RPID, Bee Inspector
  • Angus MacAskill, SG- RPID, Bee Inspector
  • Mairi Carnegie, SG-SASA    
  • Murray McGregor, BFA    


  • Graeme Sharpe, SRUC, Apiculture Specialist
  • Jim Jeffrey, SNH    
  • Jackie Quigley, SG, Secretariat

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies 

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

Cristina Ruiz (National Bee Unit (NBU)) was due to attend the meeting to introduce herself and discuss the work that she is doing. Unfortunately, Cristina could not attend but will be invited to the next BHIP quarterly meeting.

Previous minutes and actions arising (15th June 2021) 

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 entitled ‘BHIP minutes – Action Log and Quarterly Report – September 2021’). 

Of particular interest was an update on Action Point 36 (re: whether bee health will feature at the UN Climate (COP26) Conference in Glasgow): while there was nothing to report from SASA or SG Policy, Alison confirmed that colleagues in the SG Bio-diversity team are involved and considering events to take forward and also confirmed NatureScot have secured space at a COP26 venue.   

The bio-diversity team also wished to highlight that they are developing an events timeline for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) which will take place in two parts: 

  • part 1 Oct 11-15 2021 (virtual)
  • part 2 24 April-May 5 2022 (in China)   

They hope to highlight stakeholder and Agency-related events on biodiversity issues and can act as a signpost to specific events.  

Alison sent an email to the group during the meeting with the following link: The road to COP15 NatureScot and encouraged anyone interested in submitting info on any events they are planning to hold between now and May 2022 to look at this. 


Reports (attached as a separate document entitled ‘BHIP minutes – Action Log and Quarterly Report – September 2021’). 

Giving an update on the key activities which have been completed for each of the four delivery outcomes of the Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy were received from: BFA, SBA, SASA, and SG with the additional following questions being raised and areas highlighted: 

A: The BFA highlighted:

There is a very varied picture of the harvest up and down the country. Murray provided an update to the group on how the season has been for bee farmers. Generally blossom honey crop was above average in the North and West but did badly in the South and East. Overall in the UK, it has been an above average season with decent heather across the board. 

In addition: 

  • Luis asked Murray if he had any feedback from bee farmers on the impact the ban of imports of packages had on industry. Murray confirmed a lot of people were pre-ordering packages for spring 2022, with more demand than can be met. He also noted a high level of Italian queen failures in 2021, mainly due to newly encountered technical issues / importing and third party couriers. There has been mixed feedback with frustration from those who want to import and jubilation for those who want a ban on imports. Margaret Ginman advised they would have a better idea of feeling amongst bee farmers following their AGM in early October and can report back

Action point:

  • (37) following the AGM in October, MG to report back any feedback from bee farmers on the impact the ban of imports of packages has had

B: The SBA highlighted:

Matthew confirmed there is ongoing training and basic beekeeping exams this year. Magentrix is moving along and support is being provided for a PhD at Aberdeen University.  

In addition:

  • Phil McAnespie asked if an update could be provided on the situation relating to imports via NI. Luis confirmed that, whilst SG would like to reinstate the trade of packages as this would allow more control, international trade is dependent on Defra and SG need to work with them to change any proposed legislation at a GB level. Luis confirmed he will continue to highlight this to Defra colleagues and encouraged the BFA to do the same. Matthew confirmed the SBA have no strong position on whether local or imported bees should be used but that the SBA would like stability and to know that any imports are done in a controlled, measured and legal way

The Group would also be grateful for clarification on what checks have happened by NI/NBU on the imports received so far.

Matthew asked if consideration could be made to providing a follow up to those who have received a disease notification email to update them on the situation. Luis agreed we can look at improving communications. Phil suggested an article could be included in the SBA magazine as this is more likely to reach all members. 

Action points: 

  • (38) Luis/Alison to clarify what import checks have taken place
  • (39) Luis/Alison to look at how we can improve communications after an outbreak and what information we can include. Linsey to add to the list of SBA articles an article for April/May 2022 on what to do if you receive a disease notification email

C: SASA highlighted:

Diagnostics over the summer were very busy and Fiona thanked Mairi and Hanna for their hard work in the lab. SASA have been able to give bee inspectors more epidemiological information this year. 

Several beekeepers have reported severe CBPV in colonies this year with mainly strong colonies being affected. Fiona confirmed SASA are looking to improve guidance on this and considering a robust questionnaire for next year on the SASA website so beekeepers can report it. 

D: NDB highlighted:

There is no teaching at the moment and NDB are waiting on potential funding from Defra. There are currently 7 active members in NDB. 

E:  Scottish Government highlighted: 

Work continues on the re-structuring and rebranding of the bee health team. The new bee inspectors have now all experienced identifying disease. Luis stated he felt it would be beneficial for the bee inspectors to be able to provide basic beekeeping advice. Having an advisory role would help gain the trust of the beekeeping community and build a reputation that the inspectors are there to help. Murray offered to take inexperienced inspectors out to his colonies so they can build up their knowledge. 

Luis confirmed Claire and Angus have done a fantastic job leading the North and South teams and this is reflected in the number of inspections recorded by the Business Support Team. Luis also thanked the bee farmers assigned to the EFB Control Plan which has worked much better this year.   

Alison provided an update on the review of the previous Honey Bee Health Strategy. The Cabinet Secretary has been briefed and SG Policy are waiting on confirmation for this to be published. Work is underway to prepare a survey to send out to the beekeeping community to gather views on key issues such as registration, notification of movements of bees and to gather opinions on what the Bee Inspectorate do and how we can add value to bee health. Once Luis has reviewed the proposed questions for the survey, they will be circulated to the group for comment.

Beebase: Luis confirmed talks are still taking place with NBU to make Beebase more representative of Scottish Beekeepers. 

Action point:

  • (40) Luis/Alison to contact APHA and NBU to check how this is progressing

In addition:

  • Luis confirmed the Varroa Working Group should start again now the bee inspection season has finished.   
  • Luis raised the issue that EFB continues to be the bulk of inspections. Evidence and experience now clearly show us that treatment of infected colonies without treating the whole of the apiary is ineffective. This suggests that beekeepers who do not follow our advice and shook swarm contact apiaries are not being successful on the eradication of disease. Luis confirmed he is considering the need to introduce stricter control measures where treatment of the entire apiary is required if clinical disease is found in two consecutive inspections and asked the group for their views on what can be done to encourage this. Phil confirmed there is a compensation scheme available however compensation is dependent on the inspectorate issuing an official ‘destruction notice’. If the recommended treatment is shook swarm then as it is only the frames that are lost it would be difficult to pay out. Murray commented that this may be met with some resistance as it may lead to some having to close their business

Action point:

  • (41) Alison to seek clarification from solicitors on wording in the legislation for treatment of infected colonies

Additional agenda items

Bee Imports – item was discussed above. 

Organic Honey – Margaret Thomas highlighted an issue with labelling of honey where people are calling their honey organic as a marketing ploy which is misleading. Luis confirmed honey labelling is the remit of FSS and it is not related to Bee Health but confirmed he will highlight this issue to them and offered to invite FSS to a BHIP meeting if members felt this would be useful. 


Jackie circulated a doodle poll for the annual meeting with proposed dates in November. Alison asked the group to please complete this if not already done so. 

Phil highlighted Dr David Lawson is testing growth of white clover in Ayrshire.  

Date of next meeting

Next meeting: annual BHIP [date now confirmed as Wednesday 10 November] 

SG: Honey Bee Health Team
September 2021


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