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.

Varroa controls in Scotland

Varroa became reportable in Scotland in April 2021 through the Bee Diseases and Pest Control (Scotland) Amendment Order 2021 and continues to be considered one of the main causes for colony losses across the world, not only due to the physical damage caused by the parasite but also through the transmission of pathogens. Therefore, effective Varroa management continues to be one of the main challenges for beekeepers around the world.

Scotland faces a set of very particular challenges in terms of Varroa control, for instance, our climate and short season means that treatment capabilities are reduced, for example the lack of guarantees regarding sufficiently warmer temperatures during the season make some treatments inefficient in Scotland. 

Action 1: fact finding

Objective 1.1:

  • to complete a mapping exercise to identify current distribution of Varroa in Scotland identifying possible areas where Varroa is currently not present

Owner/lead: SASA
Priority: short-term (by June 2023)
Update: 9 May 2023

  • SASA are progressing the Varroa mapping exercise as a priority. SASA anticipate having a fully up to date dataset available for mapping by end May 2023

Objective 1.2:

  • communication of Varroa mapping exercise and guidance to beekeepers on best practice to protect these areas

Owner/lead: SG policy and SBA
Priority: short-term (by June 2023)
Update: 9 May 2023

  • acommunications plan will be built following the finalisation of the Varroa Mapping exercise and the training package being developed by the Varroa Working Group

Objective 1.3: Varroa Working Group

Owner/lead: Matthew Richardson
Priority: ongoing
9 May 2023

  • the first meeting of the re-instated Varroa Working Group took place on 31 January 2023
  • a wide range of issues were discussed, including Varroa treatment options in Scotland, issues around the paperwork that accompanies Varroa medicines, and the use of illegal medicines in the honey trade. The non-treatment of Varroa was also touched up on as well as the importance of knowing the spread of Varroa throughout Scotland. Progress reports will be given to the BHIP on any actions taken
  • the date for the next meeting will be 8 June where the discussion will focus on education

Action 2: training and education

Objective 2.1:

  • to develop a Scottish specific training package on Varroa

Owner/lead: SRUC (with SBA and BFA)
Priority: medium-term (by May 2023)
Update: 9 May 2023

  • Lorraine Johnston (SRUC) confirmed that work on establishing a Varroa specific training package for beekeepers which will ensure a unified approach is taken when delivering training sessions is in the final stages and local associations are encouraged to offer final developments before being published
  • the production of training videos, power-point presentations, information sheets, posters and other on-line options continue to be considered. This will include information on, among other issues, what products can be used for treatment, food safety issues and Scotland specific concerns

(New) Objective 2.2:

  • to re-instate bee health days 

Owner/lead: SG policy
Priority: short-term
Update: 9 May 2023

  • two dates for this year’s Bee health days have been identified - Thursday 1 June 2023 will focus on the commercial sector and will give an opportunity to engage at a policy level and seek initial views around things like compulsory registration etc. as well as providing practical advice and information. Saturday 17 June will focus on the hobbyist sector and will provide for a full day of lectures and practical sessions including AFB, EFB as well as other bee diseases and apiary hygiene. Both training events will be assisted by the SBA and NDB
  • N.B. a decision has since been taken (19 May) to postpone the bee health day for Commercial Beekeepers to a later date

Objective 2.3:

  • to develop an implementation plan for delivery of Varroa training package across Scotland.

Owner/lead: SRUC and SG delivery
Priority: medium-term (by October 2022)

Action 3: updated guidance

Objective 3.1:

  • create Scottish specific Varroa management guidance e.g. treatments most suitable for using in Scotland/advice on timings for these treatments/correct use, disposal and efficacy of Varroa treatments

Owner/lead: Varroa WG, SBA
Priority: medium-term (by December 2022)
Update: 14 February 2023

  • Lorraine Johnston (SRUC) via the Varroa Working Group is taking forward the development of a number of training packages and presentations on the subject

Objective 3.2:

  • working with VMD, clarify labelling instructions, common applications and include information in Scottish specific Varroa guidance

Owner: SG policy
Priority: medium-term
Update: 9 May 2023

  • the Varroa Working Group members have presented a list of questions to the VMD with the aim of clarifying a number of issues and will continue to take this forward

Action 4: regulatory activity 

Objective 4.1:

  • liaison with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and the Food Standards Scotland regarding misuse of medicines and potential residues in honey. In addition, the availability of effective medications for honey bees and review how to optimise treatments for use in Scotland, and be most efficient in management techniques (including discussions prior to removing any approved medication and what replacement products will be available)

Owner: SG policy
Priority: medium-term
Update: 9 May 2023

  • the Scottish Government had previously commitment to arranging a workshop with Food Standards Scotland, the Food Standards Agency, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and other governmental administrations to look at issues such as the lack of information available on the regulation and treatments available for dealing with Varroa. The Varroa Working Group and the SG will arrange a small working group over the coming months to discuss the development of guidance and an action plan to improve the current system

Objective 4.2:

  • consideration of process requirements for establishing officially free Varroa areas in Scotland

Owner/lead: SG policy 
Priority: longer-term
Update: 9 May 2023

  • a number of initial work streams identified (e.g. what is the actual ask, what information needs to be gathered, what legal routes would need to be followed and/or possibly introduced, what costs would be involved, what voluntary/education measures could be put in place), the SG, in conjunction with the Varroa Working Group, are developing a Communications Strategy to communicate information about Varroa areas to the beekeeping sector which will be linked to the development of the Varroa mapping work carried out by SASA



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