Honey bee health strategy: review

Scottish Government in conjunction with the Bee Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP), have completed a review of the first 10 year strategy. This will allow us to understand the progress made since 2010 and how to support the sector in future years.

Purpose of and contributors to the review:

The purpose of this review is to acknowledge and understand the progress made and act on the lessons learned from the previous 10 years of the 1st Honey Bee Health Strategy in Scotland and to enable the continuation of protecting honey bee health in Scotland.

The Strategy expired in June 2020 and it is important to reflect on and appreciate what has been successful, and more importantly, identify the areas which can be improved upon to best support a healthy and sustainable population of honey bees in Scotland in future years.

The review has also given the opportunity to remind ourselves and better understand the importance of how a healthy honey bee population impacts on other areas, for example:

  • other pollinators, biodiversity, climate change, plant health and wildlife issues
  • the rural economy: bees and honey are a very small sector of the economy but Scottish honey, particularly heather honey, has a world-class reputation and its contribution should be nurtured and championed

Since the start of this journey we have become increasingly aware of both the threats to honey bees that were already present in Scotland (such as Varroa, EFB and AFB) as well as an increased risk of new threats arriving on our shores (such as the Small Hive Beetle and Asian Hornet). All members of the Bee Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP) have acknowledged the importance of this group which has allowed the involvement from interested parties in preparing for, identifying and dealing with such threats. This direct link between Scottish Government officials and stakeholders has proved invaluable in gathering information on the views and needs of the sector when establishing honey bee health policy. It should be noted that equivalent plans for England & Wales and Northern Ireland have also been prepared.

In line with the Strategy’s emphasis on partnership working, all members of the BHIP, including Steve Sunderland (as Scotland’s first Lead Bee Inspector (LBI) and participant in the creation of the first strategy), were asked to contribute ideas, information and evidence to this review. The responses provide evidence of success and highlight what work has been achieved and continues to be taken forward against the proposed initiatives, activities and proposed outcomes of the original strategy – further information is gathered in the tables below.

The Group as a whole recognise that several of the achievements have been accomplished early on and are now firmly established (for example: the formation of the BHIP, the increase in training and education opportunities and the introduction of the EFB Control Plan) and these such achievements should be fully appreciated.

Of particular significance during the lifetime of the Strategy it was a great honour for 2 members of the BHIP to be recognised for their services to beekeeping and bee health. The late Mr Ian Craig MBE was the first beekeeper in Scotland to be honoured with the prestigious award in Her Majesty the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List in 2013 and Fiona Highet BSc, MBE was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2018.

Through this successful collaborative working since 2009/10, the picture we have now shows how these achievements have positively impacted on the Scottish Bee Health landscape. This is further recognised by the supportive comments from those involved:

  • SBA commented that they have found the experience a rewarding process for them and their members especially having forged close links with other organisations in Scotland focusing on honey bees and beekeeping. These links have allowed for an increase in exchange of knowledge and ideas.
  • BFA praised the co-operation between all sectors involved (professional and amateur, science and non-science, inspectors and secretariat) and comment that a spirit of valuing differences and respect for the views of others has prevailed and this should be paramount when establishing the new plan.
  • SRUC highlighted how the health of honey bee colonies in Scotland has noticeably improved. For example, European foulbrood in affected commercial beekeeper’s colonies has reduced to very low bacterial levels when compared to the scene witnessed in 2009. Furthermore, only a small number of cases of American foulbrood have been detected in the colonies of all types of beekeepers. Additionally, there has been improved Varroa management practised by Scottish beekeepers. The education of amateur and commercial beekeepers through outputs of the strategy has helped to achieve a more sustainable and healthy population of bees over the last ten years through a variety of training days, evening talks, phone and email advice all distributed by the BHIP.
  • SASA have found partnership working between a wide range of stakeholders, SG policy and scientists under the framework of the honey bee health strategy has greatly improved the understanding of factors affecting sustainable beekeeping in Scotland. Beekeepers have access to better support and training to enable them to maintain the health of their colonies. This partnership has supported Scottish bee science, fostering networks and building lasting connections between beekeepers and scientists, delivering world class scientific outputs from Scotland.
  • Steve Sunderland (Scotland’s 1st LBI (retired)) took the lead in the establishment of the original plan and has been the driving force over the majority of the first 10 years. Looking over the list of achievements since Ministerial approval of the Strategy, some of which have hit the ground running early on are now firmly established and Steve comments that ‘we must not allow ourselves or the officials responsible to ever forget where the sector has come from. An oft repeated mantra throughout this period has been “we are hitting well above our weight”’.
  • SG-LBI since 2019, Luis Molero MRCVS, comments that “this review will draw to a close the first Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy and provide valuable information in the development of the next 10-year plan. Looking back at the history of the bee health team and bee health in Scotland and what has been achieved in the past 10 years is testimony to the passion and hard work of all those involved. Upon my appointment I found on the BHIP a fantastic group of motivated, open and honest people with a true passion for bee health and beekeeping. I am lucky to have the opportunity to work with such a group of exceptional people and look forward to working together on the creation and implementation of the next 10 year strategy and further improving bee health in Scotland.”


Email: Bees_mailbox@gov.scot

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