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.

Summary of progress:

The Scottish Government would in particular like to acknowledge and thank all members of the BHIP for their written contributions to this report, their considerable contribution to the achievements of the 1st Honey Bee Health Strategy and for their continued support in developing the areas to focus on for the new 10-year strategy.

The following points highlight the main achievements, successes and progress of each outcome with more specific details relating to the proposed initiatives and activities of Scotland’s 1st Honey Bee Health Strategy attached at ‘the review’ section below.

Outcome 1. Education, Training and Knowledge Transfer: good standards of beekeeping and husbandry will minimise pest and disease risks and contribute to sustaining healthy honey bee populations.

Bringing together closer working relationships between Scotland’s Lead Bee Inspector, SRUC’s Apiculture Specialist, SASA, SG-Bee Inspectors and representatives from the SBA, NDB and BFA has complemented the education of both amateur and commercial beekeepers through outputs of the strategy. This co-ordinated approach has helped to achieve a more sustainable and healthy population of bees over the last ten years, which in turn makes identification and control of pests and diseases more effective. For example:

SRUC’s programme of training.

  • The SG continues to fund the apiculture specialist at SRUC who provides comprehensive advisory, training and education programmes for beekeepers throughout Scotland on all aspects of Integrated Pest Management and good husbandry.


  • The SG continues to fund SASA bee health activities. SASA delivers training and education programmes throughout Scotland; assisting with SBA education workshops, bee inspector training, providing local association talks, and working with The Roslin Institute and EBSOC to deliver science workshops for Nat 5 Beekeeping students.

Other initiatives such as:

  • SG has provided funding for a variety of training initiatives (e.g. NDB’s Train the Trainer)
  • BHIP Bee Health Workshops - bringing in experts from the Inspectorate, SRUC, SASA, SBA, NDB and BFA to improve bee health awareness of beekeeping communities across the country.

As a result of these education programmes, and linking in with Outcome 2 through effective communication, beekeepers have become more aware of their essential role in helping to ensure that disease management is under control within their own apiaries as well as keeping up-to-date with good knowledge/best practice of biosecurity, good hygiene measures and their legal obligation to report any suspicion of a notifiable/reportable disease or pest.

Outcome 2. Communication: effective communication and relationships operating at all levels.

Linking in to all the other outcomes, effective communication has proven to be key in the development of all progress, for example:

  • There has been a significant improvement in the dialogue with sectors of the beekeeping network in Scotland which has ensured that SG Policy have access to and understand the needs of the beekeeping community. A particular success has been the partnership working through the BHIP which has been essential in the development of the Strategy and is imperative that this collaboration continues.
  • SG having regular contact with other Government Administrations such as:
    • having regular meetings to ensure that a coordinated approach can be taken throughout the UK
    • the Bee Health Advisory Forum which is chaired by DEFRA
  • SG and its operational partners (SASA and SRUC) also complete a wide variety of talks and presentations where our work is explained to the beekeeping community. SG also has a programme of contributions to beekeeping magazines as well as regular updates through the SG website bee health pages and the use of the National Bee Unit (NBU) web based system, BeeBase.

Outcome 3. Surveillance, Diagnosis and Biosecurity: positive surveillance based on vigilance, reporting and diagnosis.

Prior to the Honey Bee Health Strategy, Scotland did not have an inspection programme and the only surveillance was occasionally for Varroa. Although foulbroods were reportable only one or two reports were received during the year.

In 2009 the Scottish beekeeping community became abruptly aware that a severe outbreak of EFB had been uncovered which was the trigger to the implementation for the Scottish Honey Bee Health Strategy. Since then much has been achieved:

  • Scottish Government joined BeeBase (Animal and Plant Health Agency's (APHA) National Bee Unit website designed for beekeepers and supports Defra, Welsh Government and Scotland's Bee Health Programmes) and continues to annually contribute to its maintenance and upkeep for the benefit of Scottish Beekeepers.
  • Improved inspections, surveillance and effective use of BeeBase have provided for a better understanding of the disease distribution throughout Scotland and will aide with future planning of policies.
  • Bee Inspector training – continued improvement to training for Bee Inspectors to enable them to deliver a professional and effective service which includes the dissemination of information.
  • Improved diagnostics at SASA including new technologies to support inspectors and beekeepers manage both notifiable and non-notifiable pests and diseases.
  • Linking in with outcome 1, additional training and education has allowed for the establishment of an EFB Control Plan authorising commercial beekeepers, after achieving a high level of competency, to conduct their own initial disease inspections. This has allowed commercial bee farming businesses to continue to operate within their historical movement patterns while implementing strict measures to prevent spread of disease from these businesses to other beekeepers in the area.
  • Increased vigilance for new pests and diseases through post-import inspections. We have also introduced sentinel apiaries and continue to develop contingency plans for the possible incursion of exotic notifiable pests.
  • Having a co-ordinated approach throughout the UK with equivalent plans and good communications is vital in ensuring a successful future for a sustainable and healthy population of honey bees.
  • Details of the number of inspections in Scotland since 2009 is as follows
No. of Scottish Inspections and positive results 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Total colonies inspected 2263 3150 3501 1463 1723 2302 2784 3936 2298 3767 4117 8401
Total apiaries inspected 254 213 208 253 276 236 228 222 181 208 200 411
AFB+ Colonies 136 11 5 9 5 1 6 30 5 0 10 8
AFB+ apiaries 38 8 3 5 5 1 4 16 2 0 5 5
EFB+ colonies 310 71 127 54 25 53 67 62 90 59 193 180
EFB+ apiaries 69 25 42 34 10 28 25 31 43 37 61 76

Outcome 4. Research and Development: sound science and evidence underpinning bee health policy, disease prevention and control, and good husbandry.

As highlighted with Outcome 3, having a better understanding of a situation will help guide future bee health policy in the Scottish Government and research and development is critical to collecting this information. Work has so far included:

  • SG co-funded the Insect Pollinators Initiative, which has delivered many important research outcomes and sparked lasting partnerships between the SG, beekeepers and the Scottish and UK research community.
  • A high profile Citizen Science collaborative project between SASA, Dundee University and the SBA which engaged beekeepers from project planning stages to molecular analysis, improving understanding of Scottish honey bee health and changing attitudes to science.
  • Continued collaborations between the SBA, SG, SASA and academia have led to cutting edge science with relevance to Scottish beekeeping, including work on Varroa resistance, bee viruses, genetics and microbiome. Scottish beekeepers are considered to be highly engaged with science, and relevant scientific outcomes are put into practice through training events, SASA services and academic outreach.
  • SASA have collaborated with FERA and worked independently to deliver research outcomes to underpin bee health, such as developing in-house molecular tools to support EFB outbreak control.

The Honey Bee Health Strategy has and will continue to encourage a range of beekeeping initiatives all leading to a better understanding of bee management.


Email: Bees_mailbox@gov.scot

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