Scotland’s Honey Bee Health Strategy: implementation plan

Details of the actions which the Bee Health Improvement Partnership (BHIP) will deliver in order to achieve the desired outcomes for honey bee health in Scotland.

EFB control

European Foulbrood (EFB) is a notifiable disease of honey bees in Scotland which means that anyone that suspects EFB on their colonies has a legal obligation to contact the Bee Inspectorate. 

The discovery of the outbreak of EFB in Perthshire during 2009 determined much of the work that the SG Bee Health Inspectorate carried out over the last 10-years. There have been great advances since then with levels of infection being significantly reduced and SG Inspectors now finding mostly low levels of infection at earlier stages. New strategies may be required in order to further reduce infection rates, for example, taking on board scientific studies and our own experience, it has become clear that effective EFB treatment requires action at an apiary level. This brings a number of challenges (particularly for commercial beekeepers with larger apiaries where the financial impact may be considerable) 

Action 1: EFB control plan

Objective 1.1:

  • review current EFB Control plan measures on infected apiaries to reflect evolving knowledge on EFB spread and control 

Owner/lead: SG policy, SG delivery
Priority: by March 2024
Update: 31 August 2023

  • work on the 2024 plan will commence once this year’s beekeeping season is finished. SG officials will look at lessons learned from previous years, issues that have been highlighted and consider strategies for next season and beyond

Objective 1.2:

  • run a revalidation certification course for EFB control plan signatories every three years as minimum

Owner/lead: SG delivery, SG policy, SASA
Priority: 2026
What has been delivered: 31 August 2023

  • under the direction of the delivery lead for bee health, SASA and SRUC, the 2023 EFB certification course took place on Thursday 11 May in Perth where each business taking part in the plan attended the mandatory training event

Action 2: regulatory framework

Objective 2.1:

  • review of possible compulsory registration of beekeepers in Scotland (supporting effective disease control measures by identifying potential contact colonies easily)

Owner/lead: SG policy
Priority: longer-term

Action 3: education and training

Objective 3.1:

  • delivery of a minimum of 5 presentations per year on notifiable diseases and pests, recognition, reporting and control to the Scottish Beekeeping Community

Owner/lead: SRUC, SASA, SG delivery
Priority: annual target 
Update: 31 August 2023

  • presentations were delivered to Polkemmet and East Lothian associations, with other local associations invited along, following the AFB/EFB outbreak in Lothian. Eighty five beekeepers attended over two evenings
  • SRUC has developed and delivered presentations on responsible beekeeping, disease prevention and how to do a disease inspection. Over 20 presentations to local associations

What has been delivered: annual target exceeded in 2023

Objective 3.2:

  • delivery of one Bee Health Day per year to the Scottish beekeeping community with practical and theory presentations on notifiable diseases, pests, Varroa control and other relevant Bee Health Issues

Owner/lead: SRUC, SASA, SBA, SG delivery
Priority: annual target
What has been delivered: 31 August 2023

  • as detailed in section 2.2 of ‘Varroa Controls in Scotland’, Hobbyist Day – Saturday 17 June 2023 (Coatbridge) – well attended and well received by participants. Consideration will be made on whether to hold a Commercial Day in 2024

Action 4: surveillance, disease control strategy

Objective 4.1:

  • developing a proportional and expert Bee Health Team in Scotland able to delivery statutory Bee Health activities across Scotland

Owner/lead: SASA, SG delivery, SG policy, SRUC
Priority: longer term
Update(s): 15 November 2022

  • ongoing issue – it will be useful to review this objective after a full season to see what progress has been made which will help plan a way forward for the following season

Objective 4.2:

  • expedient and timely communication with beekeepers about nearby notifiable disease outbreaks including what to do when outbreaks occur and notification when the disease outbreak has ended

Owner/lead: SG policy
Priority: annually
What has been delivered: 31 August 2023

  • SG officials have carried out prompt and effective comms ensuring the beekeeping community are made aware of any outbreaks in a timely manner with clear information on what this means and next steps. With unprecedented levels of AFB and EFB found in 2023, the Environment Minister, Gillian Martin wrote to Scotland's beekeepers to remind them of action which can and should be taken to help maintain the health and wellbeing of honey bees

Action 5: research and development of EFB in Scotland

Objective 5.1:

  • validation of PCR test from live bees to identify subclinical infection of EFB in honey bee colonies. Publish a report with findings and potential applications for surveillance, diagnosis and control strategies

Owner/lead: SASA, SG delivery
Priority: medium term (December 2023)
Update: 31 August 2023

  • SASA are meeting with their stats team and will produce a report showing their findings

What has been delivered: 31 August 2023

  • use of the ‘sub-clinical’ EFB molecular screening using adult bees has continued, with targeted sampling of defined beekeepers and apiaries as agreed at start of season with the Bee Inspections Lead, Claire Gill. Results have informed disease management decisions and advice to beekeepers, whilst further contributing towards the method development and validation
  • samples of foulbrood from all positive apiaries have been strain typed and the outcomes have informed ‘on the ground’ disease control and surveillance decisions
  • SASA lab has continued to provide traditional diagnostic services for EFB and AFB

Objective 5.2:

  • use PCR test to carry out surveillance exercise across Scotland to identify the prevalence of subclinical EFB across Scottish apiaries. Produce report for publication. Proposals on application of PCR test to guide surveillance and support disease control strategy

Owner/lead: SASA
Priority: longer term (December 2023)



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