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 March 2023)
Update: 15 November 2022

  • SASA have confirmed that this will be taken forward over the winter and continues to be a priority. 
  • the date of the re-instated Varroa Working Group meeting has to be confirmed. The group will consider Margaret Thomas’s (NDB) suggestion of whether studies could be carried out in any specific isolated areas in Scotland to monitor the non-treatment of Varroa. This will be particularly useful for knowing what areas would be inappropriate to those wishing to sell queens

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 May 2023)
Update: 15 November 2022

  • SASA will build on 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
14 February 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

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: 14 February 2023

  • Lorraine Johnston (SRUC) confirmed that work has commenced on establishing a Varroa specific training package for beekeepers which will ensure a unified approach is taken when delivering training sessions
  • this will include approaching local associations to encourage involvement in the development of the training
  • the production of training videos, power-point presentations, information sheets, posters and other on-line options will 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: 14 February 2023

  • two dates for this year’s Bee health days have been identified - Thursday 1 June 2023 will focus on the commercial sector and Saturday 17 June will focus on the hobbyist sector. Having two Bee health days this year will enable each session to be tailored accordingly

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 (by December 2022)
Update: 14 February 2023

  • via the Varroa Working Group members will bring together a list of questions to present to the VMD with the aim of clarifying a number of issues

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: 14 February 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.  Due to a change in staffing, this topic will now be covered by the Varroa Working Group over the coming months in the hope of developing 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: 14 February 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)



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